News in brief

EDO: total court victory!

In a stunning vindication of their disarmament action, seven defendants in the EDO Decommissioners case were found “not guilty” at Hove crown court, despite admitting causing £180,000 damage to the EDO/MBM arms factory in Brighton. (See PN 2506.)

Five of the activists – Simon Levin, Bob Nicholls, Ornella Saibene, Harvey Tadman and Tom Woodhead – were cleared by unanimous verdicts of the jury on 30 June, and the last two defendants – Chris Osmond and Elijah Smith – were cleared by direction of the judge on 2 July.

Tonga to go

275 soldiers from Tonga, the archipelago in the Pacific ocean, are to travel to Afghanistan sometime this autumn, for a two-year deployment as guards at Camp Bastion, a British military base, it was revealed at the end of July.
The British government will be paying £2.6m to cover Tongan costs for the first year, including uniforms, ammunition, accommodation, travel expenses and a stipend of £30 a day for each soldier in Afghanistan, said Tongan brigadier Tauaika ’Uta’atu, commander of the Tongan defence service. The marines, who are going out in batches of 55, for four six-month rotations, will receive six weeks training in Britain before deployment.

Go patty!

The Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW) decided to mark this year’s Unarmed Forces Day (an event inaugurated by Peace News last year) by launching a “nonviolent action doll”. This new doll is a counter to the “armed forces action figures” launched by the MoD last year (and which all looked like Action Man).
“Peacenik Patty” is “an active young woman, found all over the country at protests, demonstrations and peace camps”; “What she lacks in dress sense she makes up for in commitment. She comes with a set of summer clothes and, of course, her peace flag.”
Download Patty from:

Hawks to India

British prime minister David Cameron’s heavy-weight ministerial and trade mission to India at the end of June was accompanied by the announcement of a £500m BAE Hawk jet contract with India. The 57 jets would be manufactured under licence in India with BAE’s Indian partner, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), with technical and other support from BAE in the UK.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) spokesperson Kaye Stearman responded: “This announcement comes just a week after it was revealed that India has more poor people than Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Climate action

Responding to a call by the Latin American network “Global Minga” for an annual day of action in defence of mother earth on 12 October, reclaiming the day that used to be imposed as “Columbus Day”, the international network Climate Justice Action is proposing a day of direct action for climate justice on 12 October 2010. The call is for “system change, not climate change!”

The Other Coalition

A new “Coalition of Resistance” has been formed to resist government cuts, and to put forward an alternative agenda. A national conference will be held at the Camden Centre in London on 27 November.
The Coalition of Resistance statement says:
“It is time to organise a broad movement of active resistance to the Con-Dem government’s budget intentions. They plan the most savage spending cuts since the 1930s, which will wreck the lives of millions by devastating our jobs, pay, pensions, NHS, education, transport, postal and other services. The government claims the cuts are unavoidable because the welfare state has been too generous. This is nonsense. Ordinary people are being forced to pay for the bankers’ profligacy. “The £11bn welfare cuts, rise in VAT to 20%, and 25% reductions across government departments target the most vulnerable – disabled people, single parents, those on housing benefit, black and other ethnic minority communities, students, migrant workers, LGBT people and pensioners.

“Women are expected to bear 75% of the burden. The poorest will be hit six times harder than the richest. Internal Treasury documents estimate 1.3 million job losses in public and private sectors. “We reject this malicious vandalism and resolve to campaign for a radical alternative, with the level of determination shown by trade unionists and social movements in Greece and other European countries.

“This government of millionaires says ‘we’re all in it together’ and ‘there is no alternative’. But, for the wealthy, corporation tax is being cut, the bank levy is a pittance, and top salaries and bonuses have already been restored to pre-crash levels.

“An alternative budget would place the banks under democratic control, and raise revenue by increasing tax for the rich, plugging tax loopholes, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, abolishing the nuclear ‘deterrent’ by cancelling the Trident replacement.

“An alternative strategy could use these resources to: support welfare; develop homes, schools, and hospitals; and foster a green approach to public spending – investing in renewable energy and public transport, thereby creating a million jobs.”

Signatories to the statement include: Tony Benn; Caroline Lucas MP; John McDonnell MP; Mark Serwotka, general secretary PCS; Bob Crow, general secretary RMT; Jeremy Dear, general secretary NUJ; Frank Cooper, president of the National Pensioners Convention; Ken Loach; John Pilger; Mark Steel; Cllr Salma Yaqoob (Respect Party); Lindsey German (Stop The War Coalition, personal capacity); Lee Jasper, Black Activists Rise Against Cuts (Barac); and many others.

Tribal fightback

Meanwhile, in early July, nomadic Penan tribespeople in Sarawak, Borneo, blockaded a road to stop loggers destroying the rainforest. A Penan solidarity demonstration greeted Sarawak chief minister Taib Mahmud in Oxford on 26 July, when he arrived to give the keynote speech at the inaugural Oxford Global Islamic Branding and Marketing Forum.

Vedanta vexed

British company Vedanta Resources’ highly-destructive bauxite mines in tribal areas in India are increasingly under siege. The most high-profile case is the proposed mine on the sacred mountain of the Dongria Kond people in Odisha (formerly Orissa) state (see PN 2520).
A government investigation in March concluded that Vedanta’s mine “may lead to the destruction of the Dongria Kondh [as a people]”, and the mine has not yet received final clearance. During July, Vedanta suffered three major blows to its plans. India’s environment and forests minister ordered an investigation into the Dongria’s rights to their forest; the chief secretary of Odisha state ordered a separate probe on the same topic; and leading Dutch investment firm PGGM announced it had sold its stake in Vedanta over human rights concerns.
In early August, two leading Dongria anti-Vedanta campaigners were kidnapped for several days by plainclothes police. Sena Sikaka and Lodu Sikaka were released after being beaten and forced to sign documents.
More info from Survival:

BBC complaints

Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) are encouraging viewer’s complaints to the BBC about the programme “Death on the Med”, about the Gaza flotilla massacre:


On 23 July, 12 Jewish women, 12 Palestinian women and four children spent a day at the seaside at Tel Aviv.
As the Palestinians were from the West Bank, and had no entry permit into Israel, the day out was an act of civil disobedience, a protest at the “Entry into Israel Law”, which allows every Jew to move freely between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, while restricting Palestinians. After the Palestinians had been safely smuggled back, the Jewish women wrote to the press publicising their act of defiance.