Wednesday, April 26, 2006

In New Zealand: More students do not receive state support

Allowances going down, campus by campus

Information released by the Ministry of Education to the New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) under the Official Information Act highlights the decline in the number of students who receive a student allowance on a campus by campus level. (Tables included in appendix below).

“The total number of students receiving a living allowance dropped to 56,806 students in 2005, down from 60,826 in 2004 and over 70,000 in 2001,” said Conor Roberts, Co-president of NZUSA.

“The largest single drop was at the University of Waikato which had 3,541 students receiving a living allowance in 2002 but now only has 2,672 recipients. That’s 869 less students being supported while they study.”

Other large decreases occurred at the University of Otago which had 4,579 students receiving a living allowance in 2002, down to only 4,297 receiving one last year – a drop of 462. The University of Canterbury, which had 3,465 students receiving a living allowance in 2002, was down to only 2,903 last year – a drop of 562. And the University of Auckland which had 8,384 students receiving a living allowance in 2002, was down to only 7,961 last year – a drop of 468.

“Across the majority of tertiary campuses, the amount of students receiving a living allowance has been dropping year after year.”

“This is terrible - fewer tertiary students are being supported while they study and the fact is that one third of total student debt is owed by students who are forced to borrow to live, pay the bills, rent and food.”

Students under 25 years of age have faced tough parental means-testing to determine their eligibility for a student living allowance since 1992.

“The parental means test is unjust and we call upon the Government to increase access to allowances in next month’s Budget by dropping the unfair age test and turn around the declining number of students who are supported while they study.”

“The interest free student loan policy is a positive move for graduates working their way out of debt. However, we need to stop the drivers of debt, such as poor access to living allowances, and therefore prevent students getting into debt in the first place.”

“This Government needs to introduce policy so that all students receive a living allowance and are supported while they study,” Mr Roberts concluded.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Nepal Pro Democracy Movement Intensifies Nationwide

UPDATE: The pro-democracy movement leaded by the agitating seven-party alliance (SPA) continued to its 13th consecutive day Tuesday. Despite the rain, protesters defied government prohibitory orders and staged demostrations in all the three districts of Kathmandu Valley throughout the whole day.

Demonstrations were held at Chhetrapati, Thamel, Kalanki, Thankot, Gongabu, Min Bhawan, Kirtipur, Koteshwor, Chabahil, Jorpati, Suryabinayak, Kaushaltar of Bhaktapur, Mangalbazaar, Balkot, among other places. A protester was injured in police firing at Buddhanagar. Large numbers of people participated in demonstrations in other parts of the country today.

Protesters in Nepalgunj vandalized Gyanendra Chowk, presently under construction, during today’s demonstrations at New Road. Nearly three-dozen protesters were injured when police opened fire at demonstrators numbering in their thousands.

Three protesters and a policeman are in serious condition. In Pokhara, at least 30 activists were injured in police firing. The policemen opened fire at the protesters who were defying the government ban orders at Dipendra Chowk. Police fired dozens of rounds into the air and more than 100 rounds of teargas shells to disperse the agitators. A BBC Nepali Service journalist was among three others injured in the police action.

Police also opened fire at demonstrators at Nagarpalika Chowk, Mustang Chowk and the neighboring Lekhnath Chowk. Pokhara remained tense till this evening. In Udaypur, some 200 protesters were injured when police resorted to baton charges, while a protester was injured in police firing during pro-democracy demonstrations. Six of the injured are in critical condition.

Demonstrations at Home Ministry continue

Demanding the establishment of Loktantra, demonstrations were staged at various government offices including the Home Ministry bringing official work to a halt. Employees of Nepal Rastra Bank also continued to stop bank transactions today.

The government authorities arrested at least 14 employees during today’s demonstrations.

Likewise, employees of Radio Nepal and Nepal Television staged pro-democracy demonstrations in their respective office premises.

Meanwhile, the SPA today said its agitation wouldn’t disrupt the National Polio Campaign slated to be launched on Wednesday. Protesters organized a pro-democracy cultural programme at Gongabu despite light rain. The demonstrators also defied the government prohibitory orders. Thousands of people in Nepalgunj and Birgunj participated in today’s pro-democracy movement. Similar demonstrations were staged in Humla and Jumla. In Kavre, a group of gunmen attempted to foil the SPA’s demonstrations.

Two persons with Chinese guns damaged the stage of the mass-meeting and attempted to attack SPA leaders, Ram Sharan Mahat, Shankar Pokhrel and NP Saud. The gunmen escaped after the protesters in hundreds retaliated. Similar pro-democracy demonstrations were held in Chitwan, Jhapa, Taplejung, Siraha, Janakpur, Ilam, Charikot and Gauriganj. At least three-dozen protesters were injured in a police baton charge at Manma, Kalikot. More than 25,000 consumers of community forest at Ghorahi, Dang took to the streets expressing solidarity with the SPA’s ongoing movement.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Post Thaksin: Hard task for People Organization

UPDATE: Today, I received an reply email from a ASA close friends. He is Ake. For those who met him in the 2002 International Youth Camp in Kathmandu, he was the Secretary-General of Student Federation of Thailand. Even he is working in the corporation, his interest and concern about the national and regional politic never reduce.

I will upload some of his current analysis about the political situation in Thailand. It is very thoughtful and critical for the people organizations too. For those who want to know more about the political development in Thailand, the April 19 Senate election will be another thing to watch.

Here is what Ake wrote:

"The decision of Thaksin to step down as the Prime Minister reduces political tension, at least for now. People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), unsatisfied with the move, continues to campagim against Thaksin regime. They claims that what is dangerous for the Thai society is not only thaksin, but also the Thaksin regime and thaksin ideology (by which they mean 1. extreme neo trade liberalism and 2. absolutepower and authoritarianism). They claim that Thaksin is only a leader of this set of ideals. They will from now make an ultimate move to sweep away Thaksin regime and ideology. (which i dont understand how or what action they will take.)"

What's next? New government will be formed by TRT, yet new PM will not be Thaksin, but one of his man who he can control. The new government and the new house will then organise a new body, comprise of all stakeholders, hopefully to act independently and responsible for amendment of the constitution.

There lies the next battle field where all sorts of people will push hard to ensure that their agendas, which serve their benefits, will be there in the new constitution, including elites, royalists, PAD, TRT, other capitalists and of course, people orgainzations. The house will resolve itself again after the amendment of the new constitution opening door to the new general election.

We see no violence or military coup coming in sight at this point in time. Yet people organizations in Thailand have to work hard if they want to push for their agendas. Please be aware that people organizations are not even sure what they want for this amendment. Worse, they are fragmented and don't for example. So, it will be difficult for them if they still take a defensive approach.

Our suggestions:

1. All people organizations have to come together and agree upon what they really want. What will be the best offer for the interests of the Thai society (by which i mean the exploited, the poor and the lesser opportunity)

2. Then, together and hands in hands, take the political tide, which thanks to PAD who helps created it, campaign for thier resolution or their new draft. That's the only way to take the stage back from the elites and the politicians.

Hard tasks, but worth fighting for. If success, rewards will be huge and longer-term oriented. But if they still keep arguing and fighting with each other, maybe for their faces or for the leadership roles, thai people will lose and gain nothing from this 2 months long movement.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Victory to the People! All the WTO Detainees are Acquitted!

UPDATE: Following is the statement released by the HKPA on the last remaining WTO detainee who has been acquitted. Elizabeth Tang as the chairperson of the HKPA wrote as below:

I am pleased to let you know that the last remaining WTO detainee, Mr. Yun Yi Kwan has been acquitted today at the Fanling Law Court. Mr Yun was arrested together with a thousand WTO protestors on December 18 after their protest actions against the WTO on December 17. After 2 days, all were released except for 14 who were then being held on a charge of unlawful assembly and unauthorized assembly including Mr Yang Kyung Kyu, the acting vice-president of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and most of the others from the Korean Peasants League. Later on 13 of them were being released at various stages: eleven of them on January 11, Mr. Yang on February 6 and one on March 22.

In the past three and a half months, the Hong Kong People’s Alliance or the HKPA has been working closely with the detainees, the defense lawyers, people’s organizations locally and internationally to bring about the final release of the WTO detainees. We believe that they have protested on a just and legitimate cause which we all share.

On behalf of the HKPA, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to you and your organizations for the supports and solidarity actions that have contributed to this victory. Many of you have sent protest letters, held demonstrations, sent donations, sent solidarity letters and so on in the last months. All of these have built pressure on the Hong Kong government, created awareness among people, kept our actions going and give us the much-needed moral support. This victory belongs to us all!

As being expressed by the detainees over and over again, we need to keep working closely together not only for their release and also for building a just and caring world for us and our children. I look forward to working closely with you and your organizations to continue our campaign against unjust WTO rules!