Myanmar Cardinal Bo calls for fair, free polls , lists voting guidelines – full text

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon is urging voters to choose candidates and parties that promote a culture of democracy, human rights and reconciliation during the Nov. 8 general election.

The country’s first general elections since the establishment of nominal civilian rule in 2011 ended nearly 50 years of military rule will vote in members of parliament that will select the country’s president.

Cardinal Bo , 66 year-old Archbishop of Yangon, is the first cardinal created from his country where 16 dioceses provide pastoral care for some 800,000 Catholics comprising an estimated 1.44 percent of Myanmar’s total population.  Ordained a Salesian priest, he is known internationally for his many efforts, including his work with ethnic minorities and for peace.

Cardinal Bo issued his written appeal with guidelines for choosing candidates on Sept. 24. The full text of the document sent to Catholic In Asia follows…

DOCUMENT: A Fervent Plea for Fair and Free Election

From Charles Cardinal Maung Bo, Yangon!

Five years ago, the dawn of hope broke forth in the parched lands of despair. After decades of sacrifice of blood and tears, my Myanmar Brothers and Sisters tasted democracy. Termed ‘controlled democracy’ by our rulers, that dawn brought encouraging changes. People who have walked in darkness saw the light. It was not perfect democracy but the fledgling democracy brought forth a stream of hope in the hearts of our country men and women. Democracy is a process. So through this appeal I call upon the rulers and the people to make the forthcoming election a true exercise in democracy. But democracy is a long and arduous journey. The rulers and the ruled need mutual accompaniment in this journey. Democracy has won our people’s heart and mind. The surging enthusiasm for elections reflects our people’s desire for peace and prosperity- making this nation once more the Golden land.

Voting is a fundamental right in a democracy. The primary duty bearer of this responsibility is the Election Commission. Most of the vibrant democracies in the world are fortified by the strong resolve of the Election Commission. Voter education, enrollment of all in the electoral roll, a ruthless adherence to neutrality, a strong inclusive approach and a commitment to transparency are some of the expectations from our people of the Election Commission. Our earnest desire is that Election commission rises up to this challenge.

Candidates from various political parties have exhibited great desire to serve the nation. Mutual respect and consideration for the candidates from minority groups and ethnic parties will promote long term peace. Inducements and threats of civilians, use of force will be a death knell to democracy. Let your election manifestos speak for themselves. Let your people friendly policies attract the people to vote for you. Not strong arm methods.

This is a rainbow nation of colorful tribes and great religions. Manipulating sectarian sentiments would send this country to dark ages. Let religions heal, not wound. Kindly avoid vote bank politics. The principle protagonists are the citizens in this election. In a democracy the voter is the King. But they have a moral responsibility to go to the booth and elect their candidates. To dispel the darkness of fifty years, everyone should hold his or her vote as the light that challenges that darkness.

Democracy is a sacred duty. We forsake that at our own peril. Every vote counts. So please fulfill your sacred duty in this election. Please go to the booth. Vote for the candidates of your choice. Being a religious leader, I have no commands to anyone, but as one deeply interested in the welfare of ALL Myanmar people, let me express my desire to see voting done on the following guidelines: Vote Candidates and Parties who have:

1. the ability to stop the half a century long civil war pave the way for national reconciliation and peace.
2. the ability to work with due respect with different ethnic groups and religions of the nation.
3. the ability to safeguard the country’s nature and natural resources, protecting our forests and not selling our sacred rivers and resources to foreign powers. (e.g. stop the Myitsone Dam Project and Protect our forest)
4. the ability to promote the comprehensive development of our children and youth, creating employment opportunities,
5. the ability to protect the land right of the farmers and facilitate access to market and greater agriculture production,
6. the ability to ensure an inclusive economic system that is beneficial especially to the vulnerable rather than to a handful of unscrupulous profit oriented destroyers
7. the ability to respect for the role of women in the decision making process of the nation and work for development of women
8. the ability to develop an empowering education system of the nation, seeking collaboration from local and foreign academic experts, decentralizing education to benefit of all especially ethnic groups, allowing cultural and religious groups to educate their children.
9. the ability to make this nation a healthy nation through investment in health especially for women and children.
10. the ability to promote a culture of democracy that proactively promotes human rights, media freedom.

Election is a great window of opportunity to this nation. Peace and prosperity are the fruits of free and fair election. Myanmar waits for its date with destiny. Let us pray that let the dark days of despair become a distant thought. Let peace and justice flow like a river, bringing joy and happiness to all the people of this great nation.

Issued By
Charles Maung Bo., DD
Cardinal – Yangon, Myanmar

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Carry on goal to protect minorities’ freedom, punish perpetrators – US commission to Sri Lanka gov’t.

Sri Lanka's new President Maithripala Sirisena screenshot Sri Lanka Mirror Facebook

Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena screenshot Sri Lanka Mirror Facebook

A US delegation, which visited Sri Lanka to assess the climate for religious freedom, other human rights, and tolerance, have noted progress on the issues in Sri Lanka since the country’s 2015 election. It cited the importance of punishing perpetrators of attacks and stopping harassment of religious groups trying to build houses of worship.

Commissioner Eric P. Schwartz of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said he met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera, Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa, Minister of Buddha Sasana Karu Jayasuriya, and Minister of Muslim Religious Affairs Abdel Halim Mohamed Hasheem, as well as representatives from Sri Lanka’s diverse religious communities during the March 15-17 visit.

“We are encouraged by statements made by officials with whom we met,” Schwartz said in a statement posted on the commission’s website.

He cited  among “welcome” developments comments he heard supporting national reconciliation among all Sri Lanka’s religious and ethnic communities. 

“After a devastating war and reports that religious minority communities were increasingly subjected to attacks in recent years, the new government’s engagement with religious minorities is an important step forward in the effort to promote national unity and increased space for all religious groups,” the commissioner pointed out.

He also cited government’s measures in the areas of freedom of expression and association noting these “tend to create a climate conducive to religious freedom.”

Buddhism is the official religion in the country where Buddhists reportedly comprise more than 69 percent of the 21.87 million people. Most of the rest are Muslims (7.6 percent) or Hindu (7.1 percent). Christians make up about 6.2 percent of the population.

Expressing pleasure in hearing that reports of abuses against minority religious communities have diminished over the last few months, Schwartz encouraged the government to hold perpetrators of such crimes accountable. “We believe accountability will encourage a critical sense of security and well-being among affected communities,” he stressed.

He also said representatives of civil society at meetings reported “continued concerns about the ability of religious communities to practice their chosen faiths without restriction,” citing experiences of intimidation or harassment when trying to build houses of worship. 

“We hope and trust Sri Lankan officials will address these issues in the weeks and months to come,” Schwartz said.

The U.S. Congress created USCIRF in the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) as an independent, bipartisan, federal government entity to monitor the status of freedom of religion or belief abroad and provide policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.

Maithripala Sirisena won as president in the Jan. 8 polls set by incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the latter’s bid to seek a third term. Sirisena has pledged to abolish the executive presidency within 100 days of being elected, and repeal the controversial eighteenth amendment and restore the 17th amendment that limits the president’s rule to two terms and sets other restraints on the presidency.

 

In India – Free speech vs. women’s safety [reblog]

Source Saudi Gazette (Editorial)
India is no stranger to violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence. In the capital city of New Delhi, sexual assaults against women take place every day and very often ends in rape.

Full article Free speech vs. women’s safety.

Bishop in northern Sri Lanka, Tamil alliance protest postponement of war report

Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar on Tuesday (Feb 24) joined a demonstration led by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) against the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) decision to delay the release of a report on issues of accountability during the Tamil separatist war and the post-conflict period.

However, Bishop Thomas Savundranayagam of Jaffna where the protests were held refrained from joining the protest due to the participation of politicians in the event, Sri Lankan online newspaper, The Island, reported on Thursday. 

TNA (Tamil: தமிழ்த் தேசியக் கூட்டமைப்பு) is a political alliance in Sri Lanka composed of moderate Tamil parties as well as number of former rebel groups that has participated in elections since 2001.

Bishop Joseph meanwhile reportedly called the deferment of the report’s release as UNHRC’s deception of the Tamil people who have no faith in a domestic investigation of war crimes under any government. 

Read The Island’s full report

On the day of the protest, the Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF) and the Welfare Organisation for the Forcibly Disappeared Persons also jointly decided in Jaffna not to appear and give evidence before the Presidential Commission to Investigate Complaints Regarding Missing Persons (PCICMP).

In their statement released Feb. 27 the forum convened by Bishop Joseph listed reasons why it is convinced that a credible inquiry is possible only through international means.

It noted that while the government has promised to create a credible domestic mechanism for probing alleged atrocities it “seems to continue with the approach adopted by the previous regime towards truth, justice and accountability of which your commission’s continuance is a prominent example.”

“We cannot afford to continue to appear before this commission giving it a stamp of legitimacy,” Task Force leaders wrote.

The UNHCR investigated allegations of war crimes following a resolution adopted last March, and planned to present its report during next month’s session. However the UN body announced it would issue its report in September instead after newly installed Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena assured that government would conduct an impartial and transparent domestic probe into allegations of atrocities. 

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister had reportedly asked the UN body to give the administration installed in January more time to establish a new judicial mechanism to deal with the fallout of the investigation.

Alleged war crimes include attacks on civilians and civilian buildings, and executions of combatants and prisoners by both the Sri Lankan military and Tamil Tigers  – the guerrilla organization established in 1976 that sought to establish an independent Tamil state of Eelam in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lankan military and paramilitary groups backed by them were also accused in enforced disappearances and acute shortages of food, medicine, and clean water for civilians trapped in the war zone. Tamil Tigers were allegedly recruiting children as fighters.

The group gained control of Jaffna Peninsula by 1985, two years after escalation of violence between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lanka military. It lost control of Jaffna in October 1987 to an Indian peacekeeping force that had been sent to Sri Lanka to assist in the implementation of a complete ceasefire.

However, following the withdrawal of the IPKF in March 1990, the Tigers grew in strength and conducted several successful guerrilla operations and attacks around the country and in India.

Earlier in 1981, Pope John Paul II created Mannar diocese from territories formerly under the pastoral care of the Jaffna diocese.

 

Task Force Detainees awards honor rights defenders, Franciscan nun founder

Sr Mariani Dimaranan Award poster TFD Facebook

Sr Mariani Dimaranan, SFIC Award poster – TFD Facebook photo

Quezon City, Philippines -Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFD), a mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) capped its 40th anniversary celebration with the First Sister Mariani Dimaranan, SFIC Human Rights Defenders Awards at University of the Philippines, Quezon City, on Tuesday (Feb. 24).

“Through the years, TFDP has worked with numerous persons and institutions that helped the organization in advancing the cause of human rights in the Philippines. As TFDP celebrates its 40th year, it wants to pay tribute to some of the individuals and organizations who have been part of TFDP in its beginning years,” Order of Carmelites Father Christian Buenafe, TFDP co-chairperson, said during the awards ceremony.

OCarm, Pauline, NJ Viehland Photos

Fr. Christian Buenafe, OCarm with Pauline nuns – NJ Viehland Photos

TFD cited: 

Religious of the Good Shepherd Sister Rosario Battung

* Lor Abrazado of Task Force Detainees 

* Retired Bishop Julio Xavier Labayen of Infanta, former chairman of Office of Human Development of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences

* AMRSP

* Free Legal Assistance Group (Flag)

* National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP NASSA)

* Amnesty International 

These people and institutions have dedicated “a substantial part” of their lives to human rights promotion, protection and defense, organizers explained in their announcement sent to Catholic in Asia. Awardees have shown selflessness, outstanding leadership and unfaltering commitment in furthering the cause of human rights. 

Their efforts have provided significant contribution to the promotion and defense of  human rights and their pioneering endeavors have helped in the progressive realization of human rights, the TFD awards announcement added.

The event – rescheduled from December – also opened the organization’s 17th National Convention.

See posters of human rights defenders on TFD’s Facebook account.

 

“Free detained women, punish torturers” – rights NGO

SFIC,NJ Viehland

Agta women and children at Commission on Human Rights dialogue in Manila. NJ Viehland Photos

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) has called for the immediate release of the two indigenous Agta women that a Department of Justice resolution said were illegally arrested, immediate implementation justice Secretary Leila De Lima’s order for a reinvestigation of the arrest, detention and alleged psychological torture of the women living in the northern Philippine Prelature of Infanta.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in January said the arrest of Marites Marquez, 43, and her cousin, Rosario Loreto, 37, was illegal because of procedural lapses, including the absence of a warrant.

Policemen and soldiers arrested Marquez and Loreto of the Agta community working with the prelature’s apostolate to indigenous people in the Sierra Madre mountains in Quezon province last September, shortly after the New People’s Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines abducted a retired army soldier in the province.

Fr Pete Montallana OFM FB photo

A copy of the DOJ order given to the Inquirer by Fr. Pete Montallana, Infanta prelature’s apostolate coordinator showed De Lima ordered on Jan. 7  the “complete record” of the arrest of the two Agta women “returned to the office of origin for the conduct of a reinvestigation in light of the illegality of the arrests of the respondents

 TFDP is a mission partner of the Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), a voluntary association of heads of some 400 congregations and groups of consecrated men and women serving in the Philippines, former association Executive Secretary Father Marlon Lacal of the Order of Carmelites Philippines told Catholic in Asia.

 

 

 

 

 

Resource: Database on killing of Filipino Journalists

Published by Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility

CMFR Database on the Killing of Filipino Journalists/Media Workers Since 1986

updated November 2014

See database

 Paco, NJ Viehland

Paco, NJ Viehland