Tuesday, October 21, 2008

PGA Outraged by Unjustified Cancellation of Permit

by Colin Rajah

One of the unique facets of a formerly-colonized country such as the Philippines is that there are still a number of clear reminders of popular resistance, even embedded in such commonplace affairs as public parks. All public parks in Metro Manila are thus designated “Freedom Parks”, i.e. for the use of the Filipino people.

Since the People’s Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights (PGA) had intended to use the Rajah Sulayman Park (one of those designated Freedom Parks) for its opening events and for other key focal points of its action week, it really didn’t need permission to do so. However, given the experience of police repression against migrant mobilizations in this and so many other countries, PGA organizers had sought a formal permit from the Manila City government for the use of the park, and had been granted this permit as far back as June 25th. In addition, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim was invited to speak at the Philippine Opening of the PGA on Oct 22nd, and had graciously accepted. On top of all that, the local PGA organizers kept the Manila City government frequently and consistently appraised and updated about the development of the PGA program, invited speakers, planned activities and other related events. So everything seemed kosher.

Imagine their surprise when this very permit was revoked just days ago, less than a week before the PGA was to open! In spite of many meetings with the government and police following this revocation, the Manila City government declared last Friday that it was non-negotiable and the revocation is final.

Today, on the even of the opening ceremonies, organizers of the PGA held a press conference adjacent to the now infamous Rajah Sulayman Park. Representatives from migrant groups and trade unions expressed outrage at the cancellation of the permit and issued a statement that included...

“The revocation of our permit is most unreasonable, and we cannot but view it as an extension of the national government’s policy of continued denial of migrant workers’ rights and the citizens’ rights to freedom of expression. Moreover, we believe it also reveals the increased anxiety of the national government and the forces of neoliberal globalization in the light of the unfolding global financial crisis and its impending impact on the situation of migrants worldwide. The revocation of our permit signified another act of ‘management’, also know as ‘control’, as in ‘the management of migration’ which now dominated official global discourse on development, but without substantive consideration for migrants’ rights and of the fundamental issues that underlie the so-called pursuit of development. We believe that migration should not be viewed merely as a problem or crisis to be ‘managed’; migrant workers and other citizens are not commodities to be traded, nor objects and statistics to be ‘managed’.”

“In this moment of heightened insecurities among migrant workers and their families, especially in the face of the global financial crisis, the best policy on the part of the governments would have been to extend a hand of assurance and demonstrate genuine openness to listen to the voices of those who would most likely suffer its adverse impact. Instead, we are witness to the further suppression of the voices of the migrant workers and the curtailment of our rights and freedoms.”

The PGA is planning further responses to this clampdown and undoubtedly, this latest development will not be the last one in the increasingly regimented Global Forum on Migration & Development (GFMD).

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