Anti-WTO activists make their move

Large contingents of uniformed and plainclothes police officers were sent to guard foreign consulates and strategic facilities in Denpasar on Monday. Their deployment was due to anti-WTO (World Trade Organization) activists keeping their promise to make their dissenting voices heard through rallies and discussions throughout the Ninth WTO Ministerial Meeting slated to be held Dec. 3-6 in Nusa Dua. Early in the morning, activists from Gerak Lawan voiced their opposition to the global trade organization by cycling around Puputan Margarana, a vast field that lies in the heart of the administrative district in Renon.

They wore white headbands emblazoned with #EndWTO. Some 30 minutes later and 1 kilometer to the east, scores of students organized a rally with a similar message in front of the tightly guarded United States Consulate General Office on Jl. Hayam Wuruk. Grouped under Youth Solidarity Festival, the students, who represent various organizations, demanded Indonesia withdraw from the organization. They also declared that WTO must be disbanded. “Disband the WTO. Destroy imperialism. US imperialist, number one terrorist”, were words repeatedly shouted by protesters.

They also waved their shoes in their raised hands, symbolizing their resistance to the US, which is viewed by them as the driving force behind global imperialism and the WTO. Hasan Harry Sandy Ame from the national secretariat of Youth Solidarity Festival said that three policy packages, known as the Bali Package, that would be discussed in the ministerial meeting would endanger the fate of Indonesian people. “None of the WTO agreements will benefit Indonesian people. It will only marginalize us, all communities, including farmers, women, professionals, and even civil servants,” Hasan said.

“All of the packages are only the US’ attempt to control international trade. Our people will only become victims of all those policies,” he declared. The rally ended peacefully. As many as 200 uniformed police officers equipped with riot gear were deployed to protect the consulate building. They formed a human barricade that separated the protesters from the consulate’s main gate. “The deployment of such a large number of officers is important in our effort to prevent the rally from escalating into something negative,” Denpasar Police deputy chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Gusti Kade Budhi Harryarsana said, as quoted by Metrobali.com.

He said that another contingent of riot police had also been deployed to the Australian consulate compound on Jl. Tantular in Renon. Meanwhile, numerous NGOs — under the Gerak Lawan and the Social Movements for an Alternative Asia alliance — held a public discussion at the Yuwana Mandala sports hall in Denpasar on Monday, during which they called for the dissolution of the WTO. Pablo Solon, the executive director of Thailand-based Focus on the Global South, said that the organization had mainly benefited big transnational companies in developed countries. “The philosophy behind it [the WTO establishment] was to promote trade, economic growth and poverty reduction.

Now it has been 18 years and we see that this has not happened,” Solon, who once served as Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations, said on the sidelines of the discussion. Mohammed Ikhwan of the Indonesian Farmers Union (SPI) said that his organization had stopped believing that trade talks under the WTO would actually bring about changes. He forecast that this year’s ministerial meeting would not be different from previous ones and would end in an impasse.

source : bali daily

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