Wednesday, October 22, 2008

And So It Begins

by Colin Rajah

As reported yesterday, the People’s Global Action on Migration, Development & Human Rights (PGA) has become a target of the local government and police here in Manila, in order to prevent it drawing undue attention to the Philippine government's hosting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) later next week. In spite of the increased repression, including the sudden and unjustified revocation of the permit to organize key focal events in the Rajah Sulayman Park, organizers went ahead with the original plans to have the local opening ceremonies, but adjacent to the park in a private church parking lot instead.


Among the series of rousing speeches by various local dignitaries, community groups and returned migrants, our own Nunu Kidane from Priority Africa Network (PAN) – an NNIRR member – was invited to speak about African diasporas’ struggles and experiences, the only non-Filipino to do so in this local opening event. Greeting everyone in Tagalog(!), she was very well-received with loud cheers from the hundreds gathered. Nunu then explained the human rights crisis at the US-Mexico border and linked it with the similar crisis along the Europe-Africa borders, describing how the intensification of militarization in those regions contribute to the migrant deaths, after failed economic policies and war have devastated those same communities in the first place.


After the conclusion of the opening speeches, we began our short but very symbolic march across the street, into the now-forbidden park area. Dozens of police forces had gathered in riot gear, seemingly in anticipation of our actions. In spite of that, we pressed on, and were greeted head-on by the rushing police. But the march leaders were prepared for this, and swung the march around the assembled police, circling them instead, much to the police’s confusion. We paused briefly face-to-face with them, while Rex Varona from Asian Migrant Center (AMC) and Ellene Sana from Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) led with loud and powerful chants in English and Tagalog.

A snapshot of the march in pictures:

The march kicks off from the church parking lot...

The march crosses the street into the Rajah Sulayman Park...

The Colombian@s and their African partners represent...

The police in riot gear rush to meet us...

But we just march around them...

Some even flash peace signs as we march by...

Chants and confronting the police:

Rex Varona, from Asian Migrant Center (AMC), leads the chants as the police look on...

But the police do their own "documentation" too...


After a brief action by the side of the main road, the march headed back to the church parking lot. All in all, everyone present agreed that this was a very symbolic march and it was extremely important to make a strong public statement before we begin our series of workshops, meetings, forums and other events, to underline the fact that the GFMD discussions do not reflect our principles, and have in fact eroded the rights of migrants. And their attempts to shut us out or at least severely limit migrant communities voices in the GFMD process, would not go unchallenged.

For a whole series of video clips of the march, go to the NNIRR's YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/nnirr1985). We will continue to post more clips and keep reporting from Manila through next week. Stay tuned.

Photo credits:
  • Sarah Callaham
  • Colin Rajah

2 comments:

tatcee macabuag said...

Hi Colin! Photos and news articles also uploaded in PGA website:

http://www.mfasia.org/peoplesglobalaction/index.html

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