Aug 12 2009

Unwarranted, Unjustified, and Vindictive

Published by at 7:54 am under canadian politics,human rights,politics

See? You don’t have to be an American president to blast rogue regimes with both barrels (well, rhetorically, anyway). Our PM has some harsh words for Burma’s generals. The junta may not listen, but this is what Canadians need to hear:

Canada strongly condemns the Burmese regime’s decision to sentence Aung San Suu Kyi to a further 18 months house arrest.

This decision is clearly not in accordance with the rule of law: the charges laid against her were baseless and her trial did not come close to meeting international standards of due process. Her continued detention is unwarranted, unjustified, and vindictive…

We will continue to stand with the people of Burma and insist that their human rights be respected and their voices heard.

Couldn’t have said it any better, Steve-O.

I’m reminded of an article I wrote about Burma eons ago that still seems relevant today. I’ve dredged through my Gmail and discovered it for your reading pleasure:

Ethics 101: Don’t Do Business With a Junta

“Of course it’s a democracy! The people just don’t have the right to vote.”

Mathew’s comment elicited a few chuckles from my colleagues sitting around the staff table. But I could tell I wasn’t the only one who felt a little uneasy.

My workplace in Vancouver had decided to open up a branch in Myanmar. We had just got the memo.

None of us really knew much about the country. Even in 2008, after the cyclone disaster and the mass protests brutally put down by the junta’s troops, I suspect not many Canadians can even find the place on a map.

Still, we were all basically aware the country was located somewhere in Southeast Asia and run by a military regime known for its low regard for human rights.

The Japanese-based owners’ rationale for setting up a branch in Myanmar was that in a global world, business had to reach out to new and emerging markets. Everyone else is going left, so you go right. Since companies were not rushing into Myanmar to invest, management saw an opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

The company heads seemed to have a vague idea of the ethical minefield they were walking into, if only because it was going to be awfully tough to find an employee willing to go over there. Our local manager had come up with the line that Myanmar was showing signs of an emerging democracy to calm our concerns.

That’s when Mathew ran with his one-liner and broke the tension. But I was on edge.

I decided to do a little research and soon discovered that the US first imposed sanctions on Myanmar in 1990. This was after the incumbent junta annulled an election won by Myanmar’s National League for Democracy. The 1991 Nobel Peace Laureate and opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest more than a decade. The European Union imposed its own sanctions soon after.

As for us Canucks, the Canadian government officially discourages investment in the country. Petro Canada pulled out in 1998.

Despite its cash-poor status, trade with Asian countries provides the ruling generals with enough capital to run one of the most the most repressive and pervasive military intelligence systems in the world.

Fifty per cent of Myanmar’s economy goes towards military spending, but apparently there’s no cash to pay for the slave laborers the army dragoons to hack out roads in remote areas, or the child soldiers forced to raid villages inhabited by ethnic minorities.

Our company’s executives had to be aware that the only people able to afford our services would be involved with or related to the ruling junta. The company went ahead, anyway.

It didn’t take long to get things started. In weeks, we had a physical location and they were already printing brochures.

I moved on to greener pastures soon after, but I kept in touch with my old colleagues. Less than six months later, I heard the Myanmar branch had closed.

The customers had all registered in hopes of somehow getting visas and permission to travel abroad – evidently, promises had been made in the promotional materials that had been rushed to the printers. When that didn’t happen, they protested and the branch was forced to shut down. Rumor had it that the big bosses back in Japan had only set up the Myanmar in the first place as an elaborate scam to get a few friends some visas to get into Canada.

A few weeks later, US President George Bush listed Myanmar alongside Iran, North Korea, Belarus, Cuba and Zimbabwe as outposts of tyranny in his inaugural address.

It’s been four years since then. The junta has holed up in their jungle base while their soldiers continue to keep the people terrorized. I’d like to think that Canadians – and foreign executives with interests in Canada, for that matter — are a little more educated now about the downside of doing business in a country where Amnesty International has been collecting evidence of torture and human rights abuses for decades.

We’ll see.

And we’re still waiting.

Myanmar Burma It Can’t Wait – by Tila Tequila

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8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Unwarranted, Unjustified, and Vindictive”

  1. Robon 12 Aug 2009 at 9:52 am

    Now if only Prime Minister Harper would make those type of comments in relation to the actions and behavior of Canada’s HRC’s!

  2. Alberta Reporton 12 Aug 2009 at 10:45 am

    Yes, Jonathon – about those women that are being oppressed by regimes, I’m sure you must have heard that there’s this black muslim woman who is facing jail time in Kenya because her own country railroaded her into jail. I think the hypocrisy of your posts was called out recently but I don’t think you’ve learned from that. Maybe get some help.

    Does your “Dear Leader” – “Steve-0” as you call him, have any comments for such a regime that it strips its nationals of their travel documents while abroad and assists the foreign government in bogus charges and incarceration?

  3. jnarveyon 12 Aug 2009 at 11:00 am

    Hey Alberta Report (If that is your real, um, name),

    Your pals’ bogus smears against me are a waste of cyberspace. You’re barking up the wrong tree.

    As regards the case of Suaad Hagi Mohamud, I hope she is repatriated into Canada at the earliest opportunity. I’m just as outraged as anyone at the incompetent consular officials who prevented her return.

    But your implication that her being stranded in Kenya was directed from the PMO seems to be the worst kind of nutbar conspiracy theory.

  4. Alberta Reporton 12 Aug 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Jon… my perogative to choose a handle, whatever it is…, but to clarify, I made no reference to PMO (talk about putting words in my mouth, but hey, maybe I can sue too?), however it is “Steve-O’s” government, and his minister (cannon) who are ultimately responsible and entirely on their watch have mishandled this issue from the beginning. But hey jon-boy, don’t let facts get in your way of attempting to put some sort of fake spin on my dialogue with you.

    But….since you’ve gone there, heck, I’ll bite….the PMO may not be directly responsible for the cause, but they certainly are responsible for doing the right thing and repatriating a Canadian citizen – and where exactly are those ministers and the PM on that now?? How many days in the media now and not a peep? Hmmmm

    I’m not really concerned with smears from others, because I don’t for a minute believe you are racist, or sexist – I think just a bit delusional in how you are interpreting issues… which is why I do believe there is some sort of hypocrisy when an active blogger, such as yourself, posts an Amnesty International banner, but ignores completely disturbing issues coming from his own country while providing praise for the same incompetent government speaking out against other regimes. Do you not see this? Really??? Others have observed it too, but Jon-Jon I don’t think you’re getting the message buddy boy.

    What is your explanation for your “dear leader’s” silence on this issue?

  5. jnarveyon 12 Aug 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Hmmm. Well, I may have jumped on you a bit, AR. I’ve seen a few instances of impostors in various comments sections, I believe by some blogging friends of yours. From your tone, I wasn’t sure if you were legit. Let’s let that go.

    By the way, what’s with “Dear Leader”? Are you honestly comparing Harper to a guy who tortures and starves his own people and sends political opponents (or anyone who *might* be a political opponent) into the frozen Gulag? Think you’re a bit over-extended, there.

    As for Steve-O’s silence, I’m going to say… I honestly don’t know. Maybe he considers the directive to our consular service to get Suaad Hagi Mohamud back into our country as soon as she was identified by DNA to be enough, case closed.

    Maybe he’s busy writing that hockey book he’s been talking about for years. You’d have to ask him.

    To me, the fault here is likely with some consular flunky who ought to be fired for incompetence, as well as his immediate supervisors. It’s an indictment of the civil service, not necessarily their political masters. That’s where I stand.

    As for my so-called hypocrisy according to you and others, that angle is getting really tired. According to the logic of your buddies, I’m an active supporter of Sunni suicide bombers because I didn’t manage to get out a blog post condemning their latest violence last week. Or I’m an Obama-hater, because I didn’t condemn the birthers last week, either.

    Of course those don’t reflect my stances. You want to know why I didn’t blog about the cases of Mohamud or Abdelrazik? Here’s the horrid truth: I have a day job and a busy life outside blogging, and just didn’t have the time or the inclination to blog about those worthy topics, or a thousand other worthy topics.

    I may eventually get around to blogging about these or similar cases in future. But again, absence of these topics in my blog does not indicate any particular stance.

  6. Alberta Reporton 12 Aug 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Okay, fair enough – I understand you’re busy. We all are…

    But just to put it this way – with the Abdelrazik or Mohamud cases, in your own back yard garnering many headlines why did you choose to take the Suu Kyi issue and praise what is clearly just a ‘Kodak Moment’ for Stephen Harper and nothing more?

    To say you were ‘too busy’ to comment on these other serious matters about your fellow Canadians closer to home because you chose to highlight a showy comment from “Steve-O” is quite frankly, a disingenuous excuse at best. I also believe that attempting to shift the blame for these individual’s misery by asserting that some phantom mean-spirited civil servant is not a valid excuse for the behaviour of the minister(s) who are, and lets be clear here, they indeed are… running the show.

    Ministers have the ability to intervene (see: Brenda Martin (white, convicted of a crime in a foreign land, Christian)). In both of the cases I have referred to (see: brown, Muslim, NOT convicted of doing anything) they (Minister Cannon, Kenney, and PM Harper) have in fact ignored information, failed to answer questions, and have intervened to PREVENT these individuals from being repatriated going so far as to send lawyers to court – against their own citizens no less!

    Granted there are human rights issues everywhere worth mentioning, but in particular when you or I have to rely on our courts to FORCE the government to honour their charter rights not equally as important? Why has the PM been silent on it? Jonathon I don’t think he deserves praise for any comments when it is he himself, and his ministers who are eroding our own rights.

  7. jnarveyon 12 Aug 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Good points, AR.

    My friend Raphael Alexander has covered this case (in multiple posts if I’m not mistaken) and I just noticed his latest post on the Mohamud case at http://unambig.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/foreign-affairs-leaving-some-canadians-in-the-lurch/

    Have a look. I agree completely with his view that while I don’t see a conspiracy afoot, these cases absolutely leave me angry.

    Why has the PM or other ministers been ducking opportunities to reassure Canadians on these cases? Again, I don’t know.

    But I can assure you that we’d both like an answer to that question.

  8. Joshuaon 12 Aug 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Sorry alberta report.Im not buying what your selling.I know plenty of Muslims who are doing just fine here in Canada ,who despise the Iranian regime as well as others who sully the name of Islam with violence,lies, deceit and perversion of their faith.Thats why some are here so they can raise a family in peace,not hatred.On the other side of the coin there those radicals that are attempting to disarm our culture from us.That i will not allow to happen.This current govt deserves much credit for what it is doing-with a minority no less.As long as the govt continues on this path they will continue to have my support and confidence.The opposition parties are offering ZERO alternatives.Just like the ZERO alternative they offered in the last election.
    Has it occured to you that sometimes information is sometimes for govt eyes only?The Tamil Tigers are a perfect example.I had no idea that money being earned here in Canada was being transferred overseas to fight a civil war?I bet the CSIS did know though.Or how about Palestinian charities being front organizations to fund terrorism?Seriously this is the kind of world we live in.If theres any wrong doing trust me it will come out into the light.Even it is from this govt and ill be the first to condemn it.

    Joshua

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