This is the ASA response to the statement released by the Focus on the
If you have any comment or question, please feel free to contact the
p/s: below our statement is the statement circulated by the Focus on
We write this in the light of a statement released by the Focus on the Global South yesterday January 16, 2005, entitled "Assassination and violence have no role in civil society."
We in the Asian Students Association regional secretariat respect the Focus's position with regards to the ongoing matter between Mr. Walden Bello and the Communist Party of the Philippines. Nonetheless, they could have just stopped there. But they did not.
We find it amazing how the Focus suddenly dropped names of organizations towards the end of the statement (see second to the last paragraph) and appealed for their sense of decency. There is nothing decent in what is practically red-baiting.
For did they not resort to red-baiting when they mentioned the Asian Students Association, among many other organizations? Is this in accord to their definition and objective of pluralism? Is this not toeing the line of US imperialist terrorist-listing?
We will not leave the questions unanswered. In the spirit objectivity and critical bias, we shall explain each and every one of them here.
Has the Focus thought what could possibly happen to the leaders and members of the ASA when it resorted to red-baiting?
Is it not an historical fact that the United States government has used the same tactic in committing genocidal acts against open resistance movements in Chile, Vietnam, Indonesia and Korea, among many others?
Is it not what the repressive governments of Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Augusto Pinochet (Chile) and General Suharto (Indonesia) wielded to legitimize massive political crackdown on movements and peoples?
We believe that the McCarthyist Era is over. Yet surprisingly, a group who professes to belong to the civil society and supposedly meets the challenges of the future with democratic debates has remained stuck up in it.
By resorting to this, the Focus has subjected the regional secretariat and the whole membership of the ASA to open fascism and repression.
Right now, many of our members are already living under repressive states and are fighting for the legality and legitimacy of their work and objectives under harsh conditions.
Some states, until now, are using the tired old red scare to suppress legitimate student and youth organizations. One vivid example is the irresponsible tagging of the League of Filipino Students (which Focus also maliciously mentioned in their letter) and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, both long-time members of the Asian Students Association, as communist fronts which led to the rapacious military crackdown and killing of their members without due process.
In the current context of the hysteria against terror, many countries are already in the process of institutionalizing anti-terrorist laws such as Korea, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan. In the experience of our members in Malaysia, the Internal Security Act has been used by the state to effectively suppress the people's dissent through warrantless arrests and illegal detentions.
We ask then: has not Focus given the license and ammunition to the possible heightening of this attack on our members?
Why is Focus selective in the forms of struggles when they profess to be pluralist? Does their version of pluralism exclude groups whose principles and forms of struggle are unacceptable to them?
Civil society, we believe and we have learned, does not pass judgment on anyone or anything without sufficient information and bases. It is in the spirit of objectivity and critical thinking that we respect due process, research and collective analysis before coming up with a conclusion. I guess not one person in her right mind would violate this simple method.
What of the Focus?
What audacity has the Focus to determine which one is legitimate and which one is not? What gives them the right to pinpoint and accuse organizations without providing them the chance to speak up?
Has not the damage been done even before we can possibly react?
To our colleagues in the civil society, we ask for your objectivity.
The History and Legacy of the ASA
By putting us in the line of fire, did the Focus not attack the integrity and legacy of the ASA? Is this a civil act of a civil society organization?
The ASA, since our establishment in 1969, has remained true to our tradition and principle of recognizing and respecting the right of our members and movements to determine their own form of struggle.
We will not deny that some of our members, from then until now, have taken up arms to resist their respective repressive states. We shall not deny them for it is an affront to the young lives that have been sacrificed for freedom and democracy. Our members in Palestine, Burma, Laos and even East Timor before its independence have chosen to practice their right to rebel.
Even the international community respects this right of the people. That is why there exist the rules of war and international conventions and protocols that guide the conduct of war.
Solidarity is deeply rooted in the respect of independence and initiative of movements. That is why, until now, despite the difference in forms of struggles of our members - from the tree-hugging activists to those who assert students' rights in schools to those who defend their sovereignty against occupation - we remain united in the principles of anti-imperialism, democracy and social justice.
This is why we believe that the Focus on the Global South does NOT have any right at all to infringe on the independence of any movement, organization or individual for that matter. You do not have any right to judge or label the Asian Students Association.
If the Focus's brand of pluralism includes impinging on one's rights and independence, then it is fraudulent, dishonest, self-contradicting and self-serving.
Mouthing the imperialist line
Now that we have explained ourselves, we go now to the last.
For did they not, with their statements, toe the line of U.S. imperialism when the latter high-handedly placed legitimate organizations, individuals and revolutionary movements in its foreign terrorist list without due process?
By failing to provide their readers the arguments between the two concerned parties beyond their statement, they have deprived their network and their friends the opportunity to be critical and unbiased in their decision. They only provided one news item and not one from the statements they have mentioned of Mr. Fidel Agcaoili and Prof. Jose Maria Sison.
Is this not uncritical bias? Is this not so like the U.S. imperialist hysteria on the war of terror?
There is just one last question ringing in our heads: again, why the mention of organizations? Could it possibly be turning the tables against us, putting us at the defensive, discrediting our names in the global anti-globalization movement?
Why waste seven lines of the statement to simply drop names of
Do tell, could this probably be the Focus's own "hitlist", as mentioned by Norberto Gonzales, the chief national security of Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and who caused the killing of more than 40 coordinators of progressive party-lists tagged as communist fronts?
Could it be an addendum as well to the U.S.' own foreign terrorist list?
If it is so, where is the pluralism in that? Where is the civility in that? Tell us, does this undoing speak well of civil society?
We guess Mr. Bello knows the parameters of this debate, of his exchanges
Recently, our executive director Walden Bello was named by the key organ
of the Communist Party of the Philippines as a "counterrevolutionary"
in a list that included both living and dead activists. After consultation
with a number of people, we have
Focus staff members have therefore decided to call the attention of global civil society to this development, not only out of concern for Walden, but also because we feel strongly that the CPP's drastic method of resolving differences must be publicly condemned by global civil society.
Please find below a signed statement to this effect that we are distributing through the listserves and networks, both in the North and the South, that Focus have been interacting and working with.
We hope to have your support for this action. Any comments would be appreciated.
ASSASSINATION AND VIOLENCE HAVE NO ROLE IN CIVIL SOCIETY
Out of deference to the more than 160,000 victims of the tsunami tragedy that engulfed South Asia on December 26, 2004, we in Focus on the Global South (Focus) have refrained until now from pointing to an alarming development bearing on the security and well being of our Executive Director, Walden Bello.
Focus is not in the habit of calling attention to the status of its staff.
This time, however, things are different. In the December 2004 issue of
Ang Bayan, the principal organ of the Communist Party of the Philippines
(CPP), Walden was singled out as a "counterrevolutionary." His
name was listed alongside fourteen
For people familiar with the history and practices of the Communist Party
of the Philippines and its paramilitary wing, the New People's Army, the
message of the counterrevolutionaries' list to Walden and the others is
unmistakable: You're beyond the pale. You're a "class enemy"
to be eliminated, the only questions remaining
For us in Focus, the listing of Walden and other Filipino activists as counter- revolutionaries deserving of elimination comes as a shock. Walden's writings, books, and contributions speak for themselves: a recipient of the prestigious Right Livelihood Award (also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize), he is acknowledged to be one of the most articulate critics of US intervention and corporate-driven globalization. Others named in the list include prominent international activist Lidy Nacpil and Etta Rosales, head of the Human Rights Committee of the Philippine House of Representatives.
Walden, along with Congresswoman Rosales, did the best thing they could
do to protect themselves upon the issuance of the CPP hit-list: they publicized
it in the media. Since then, in a post-facto effort to justify Walden's
being on the hit list, scurrilous attacks have been heaped on him by Jose
Maria Sison, chairman of the
Coming from a sectarian political grouping with a very specific agenda,
these fantastic charges against Walden, Focus, and global civil society
do not deserve a serious answer. It is important to understand, though,
what lies at the root of Walden being listed as a counterrevolutionary.
Apparently, the CPP and its allied
But the threat to Walden's life and to the lives of the others named as counter-revolutionaries is very real and cannot be ignored. Moreover, sectarian activities carried out by CPP-linked groups -- activities carried out in the name of "isolating the reformists and counterrevolutionaries"-- are sowing intrigue and conflict in some civil society networks and movements, thus weakening our ranks in confronting corporate-driven globalization and US militarism.
Differences among groups fighting for change are natural. But these differences
should be resolved through democratic debate -- this is a fundamental
premise of our movement. Seeking to resolve these differences through
threats, force, and assassination cannot be condoned and must be denounced
in the strongest terms
Focus on the Global South calls on all civil society organisations and
networks globally to condemn such threats and actions in the strongest
possible terms. Being part of a bigger global movement for social justice,
we have interacted with, worked with, or even supported groups that are
associated or working closely with the
We make a final appeal to the CPP to desist from its destructive course
of action and refrain from dividing the movement fighting against corporate
globalisation at a critical time in the struggle for a better, just and
Bangkok, January 15, 2005