By Mr. Danilo Ramos
APC Secretary General
30 January 2011
The 3rd General Assembly of the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) was successfully held from January 23rd to 24th, 2011 in Hanwella, Sri Lanka. The event was hosted by Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR),VIKALPANI Women’s Federation and National Farmers Assembly (NFA).
The assembly carried the theme “Consolidate Our Gains and Strengthen Asian Peasants Unity! Persevere in the Struggle for Land and National Sovereignty! Intensify Resistance against Imperialist Globalization and War!”
On the opening day on January 23rd , there are one hundred ninety (190) participants thirty (30) are international participants while one hundred sixty (160) are local participants mostly members of MONLAR, VIKALPANI and NFA – representing eight (8) countries such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
Mr. Sarath Fernando gave the welcome remarks on behalf of MONLAR, VIKALPANI, NATIONAL FARMERS ASSEMBLY and all other farmer organizations, and other people’s organizations in Sri Lanka. In his speech he said that, “This is a very important moment in the history of peasants’ struggles in the world and in Asia that we have decided to meet, to assess what we have done, identify our strengths, weaknesses and also to strategize for the future. There are many achievements that we have made about which we can all feel very happy, but there are much bigger challenges that we are facing that need to be addressed…”
The Keynote Address entitled “Consolidate Your Gains, Strengthen Asian Peasant Unity and Intensify the Struggle” from Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Chairperson of the International League of Peoples Struggle (ILPS) was read by Ms. Irene Fernandez, APC Vice-chairperson for External Affairs. Prof Sison stressed,
“…You are correct in pointing out that neo-liberal policies have inflicted extreme suffering on the people. These policies include the reduction of subsidies in food, agriculture and social services as part of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs); the constraints imposed by the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in favor of TNCs; the integration of agriculture under the World Trade Organization (WTO)/Agreement on Agriculture (AOA); and large-scale corporatization of agriculture. We in the ILPS admire and highly appreciate the victories that the APC has achieved since 2003 in waging struggles for genuine land reform and defending human rights against repression, state terrorism and imperialist wars. You have accumulated strength by raising the level of consciousness, organization and mobilization of the peasant masses in Asia. You have acted effectively in a collective way as an alliance as well as individually in the different countries where your members are.”
The Regional Situation and Asian Peasant Resistance Against Imperialism from Mr. Erpan Faryadi, APC Vice-chairperson for Internal Affairs was read by Mr. Balram Banskota, APC Coordinating Council member. He said that, “Asian peasants through the APC have remained militant and steadfast in their fight for land, livelihoods, resources and justice. Peasants struggle in the countryside in different forms is strengthening and intensifying. Mass demonstrations continue to flood the streets, as the only effective way to voice out the peoples protests against the oppression they are experiencing. Through all these the APC has always been there to further strengthen and consolidate the ranks of peasant communities in Asia as well as linking with other peasant groups and organizations at the international level.”
This was followed by a country report from Saiful Huq (Bangladesh), P. Chennaiah (India), Balram Banskota (Nepal), Irene Fernandez (Malaysia), Azra Sayeed (Pakistan), Estrelita Mariano (Philippines) and Thilak Kandegama (Sri Lanka). The synthesis of the country report was done by Sarojeni Rengam (Malaysia).
Danilo Ramos, APC secretary general reported on the secretariat work from January 2007 until December 2010. He pointed out that, “the APC has grown from twenty one (21) organizational members coming from seven (7) countries in 2006 to twenty five (25) organizational members from nine (9) countries in 2010. During the last meeting of APC Coordinating Council on January 21,2011, we approved the application for membership of five (5) organizations. At present, we have thirty (30) organizational members coming from nine (9) countries such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka. There is a need to follow-up the peasant groups from Cambodia, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. It is essential to continue the exchange program within the APC members in order to learn from each experience and to strengthen our ranks.”
On January 24 (2nd day), 47 official delegates and participants attended the assembly. The general program of action and direction for 2011-2014 was approved in principle but there is an urgent need to revise it.
The assembly approved the following resolutions:
1. Resolution against government repression on peasants, dalits and ethnics and demand the immediate release of political prisoners;
2. Resolution to Stop Global Land grabbing;
3. Resolution on Tamils in Sri Lanka;
4. Resolution to condemn Dr Binayak Sen’s conviction and life sentence & demands his immediate release;
5. Resolution to demand an end to Operation Green Hunt in India;
6. Resolution: Recognizing the Significant Contribution of our Comrade, BIPLAP HALIM , in the Asian Peasant Coalition
7. Resolution Calling for Utmost Support to the Struggle of the Agricultural Workers of Hacienda Luisita
8. Resolution on : Unity with and Continuing Active Involvement and Participation in the International League of People Struggles
9. Resolution to support the peasantry of PANAMA in their struggle against the ‘Arugam Bay Special Tourism Promotion Zone’
Recognizing Comrade Biplab Halim
A Resolution: Recognizing the Significant Contribution of Our Comrade, Biplab Halim, in the Building of the Asian Peasant Coalition proposed by Irene Fernandez was unanimously approved. It says, “Our fellow worker and staunch leader, Mr. Biplap Halim, has served as Chairperson since December 2006 to the present 3rd General Assembly of the APC, January 2011. In the almost five years of his leadership, he has actively and persistently been at the forefront of the struggles and mass campaigns of the whole peasantry in the APC. He has consistently and steadfastly implemented and stood for the objectives, program and principles of the APC on all fronts. Despite his physical limitation and medical condition, he has unwaveringly shown his deep commitment to serve the peasant masses and the people of India and Asia in general. As was his father, revolutionary blood is in Biplaps veins. As were his parents, he perseveres in the struggle for the liberation of the Indian people especially the peasant masses.”
A wooden plaque of recognition prepared by the APC secretariat was given to Biplab Halim. Everybody was surprised, teary-eyed and extremely happy. This moment will be forever remembered. Mr. Halim will always be an inspiration to us and we will continue to rely on his valuable guidance and service to carry-on the peasant and people’s struggles.
A newly set of Executive Committee members were elected such as Fatima Burnad (Chairperson, India), Irene Fernandez (Vice-chairperson for Internal Affairs, Malaysia), Badrul Alam (Vice-chairperson for External Affairs, Bangladesh), Danilo Ramos (Secretary General, Philippines), Erpan Faryadi (Deputy Secretary General, Indonesia), Balram Banskota (Treasurer, Nepal), and Saiful Huq (Internal Auditor, Bangadesh).
The members of the Coordinating Council (CC) members were also elected — for South Asia, P. Chennaiah (India) and Chandra (Sri Lanka) and for Southeast Asia, Estrelita Mariano (Philippines).
With utmost appreciation, the APC officers gave a wooden plaque to thank the local organizations such as MONLAR, VIKALPANI and NFA that hosted the APC 3rd General Assembly in Sri Lanka. This was received by Mr. Sarath Fernando on behalf of MONLAR, Ms. Chandra on behalf of VIKALPANI and Mr. Thilak Kandegama on behalf of NFA. “We thank all the individuals behind these organizations who worked hard and experienced sleepless nights in performing their tasks. We likewise thank all other nameless individuals who gave their knowledge, strength and skills which brought this event very successful,” Ramos remarked.
Fourteen (14) international participants coming from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Philippines together with six (6) local participants from MONLAR, VIKALPANI and NFA joined the Exchange Program from January 24 to 25 at Panama, a peasant village in the South-East of Sri Lanka, situated at a distance of about 350 km from Colombo on the Eastern coast struggling against the ‘Arugam Bay Special Tourism Promotion Zone’.
The APC participants were warmly welcomed by Mr. Wijesiri. The Chief Incumbent Rev. Chandrarathana Thero of Shri Bodhirukkharama Temple, talked on the history of their struggle, “… by now, out of 03 villages (Panama west), 2,000 acres of land were cordoned off and people are chased away. Their plants were also destroyed. In another, 03 villages (Panama North) cordoning off has started to grab nearly 3,000 acres of lands…”
”We have here farmer-leaders from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines to hear you out… We only play an activist role. It is the peoples’ action that lead the way to win these demands…”, remarked Mr. Sunil shantha from MONLAR.
In front of 150 men and women farmers representing the Peasants Rights Protection Organization from Panama village, Balram Banskota, APC Treasurer, said, “that the APC is here with you to extend our international solidarity in your struggle. This afternoon, the APC delegates coming from 8 countries in Asia approved a resolution to support the peasantry of PANAMA in their struggle against the ‘Arugam Bay Special Tourism Promotion Zone’. This is our way of support…”
Representatives of the Panama peasant community, K. Kamal and H. Rooparathne, shared their stories and the current situation they are facing. They said, “since our lands were cordoned off, we were left hungry… We want our lands back.”
This was followed by a sharing of success land struggles from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and the Philippines while Nepal participant reiterated their experience on the successful ouster of King Grayendra, which was a result of Nepali peoples’ action.
Mr. Sunil closes the program. He said, “we cannot continue the dialogue because some of the international participants who are here will have their flight tonight. We are requesting you to come again here on February 10 and let’s continue the sharing…”
The hope and determination to continue their fight and regain their lands can be seen in the eyes of the Panama people. The international participants on the other hand, were very happy that they visited Panama and had shared some of their success stories which inspired the Panama people. They left with expectations that APC will bring the Panama peoples struggle at the international level. #
For more information, please contact:
The APC Secretariat