Thursday, May 21, 2009

Jilin Connell: injury upon injury

Employees injured at work not only have their physical or psychological injuries to nurse; more often then not, they are subjected to the slander that they either caused the injury through their own negligence, or that the injury is psychosomatic, something they themselves have dreamed up. Victims of repetitive strain injury (RSI) were slandered in this way.

The most recent victims of such a slander are a group several thousand strong in an industrial zone in Jilin city, Jilin Province, China.

They were all either employees of the Jilin Chemical Fibre Company or nearby residents. All claimed that chemical discharges from a neighbouring firm, Jilin Connell Chemical Industry Co., Ltd. (JCCI) were to blame.

The Connell plant produces aniline, a highly-acrid poison used mainly in the manufacture of polyurethane. The capacity of the plant increased from 45,000 tonnes per annum to 66,000 t/a in the early 2000s, but was recently expanded to a massive 300,000 t/a. The aniline unit uses a nitrobenzene hydro-reduction process.

(Quite apart from the safety issues – or maybe they are linked after all - is a jockeying for position within the aniline industry in China which is facing a crisis of overproduction. Ironically, just as the poisoning scandal has erupted, a May 20-22 China Benzene-Aniline-MDI Industry Chain Conference is to take place in Beijing with discussion topics including Analysis of Benzene-Aniline-MDI industry chain development during economic crisis and How to rationally deal with "Aniline industry excess capacity". A “Background to the Summit” points out: “With JiLin ConNell Chemicals’ aniline device starting again soon, the situation of the domestic aniline excess capacity will be more serious.”)

Readily available website information identifies aniline as “toxic by inhalation of the vapour, absorption through the skin or swallowing. It causes headache, drowsiness, cyanosis, and mental confusion, and, in severe cases, can cause convulsions. Prolonged exposure to the vapour or slight skin exposure over a period of time affects the nervous system and the blood, causing tiredness, loss of appetite, headache, and dizziness”.

Around 450 of more than 900 workers who had sought medical attention from April 23, when the first symptoms were reported, remained in hospital by May 15, more than 3 weeks after complaints including headaches, numbness, and partial paralysis surfaced.

The Connell plant was closed on April 30. An investigative team was sent by the Health Ministry’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and concluded that releases of Connell plant gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide, aniline and benzene were within state limits. They also noted that none of the Connell workers had reported symptoms. In a report released on May 14, the health bureaucrats blamed “mass hysteria”.

Zhang Shoulin, who led the team, announced at a press conference organised by the city government that the “uncomfortable reactions” among workers were not caused by poisonous chemicals but rather by a socio-psychological phenomenon.

However, workers insisted that they were not imagining their symptoms.

“I cannot accept this conclusion,” said Wang Jinping, a worker of the Chemical Fibre factory. “Why are there so many sick people if there is no pollution?”

The issue was resolved following the intervention of the State Administration of Work Safety Supervision which released its own statement on May 18.

The work safety regulator confirmed that an accidental poison gas leak occurred in April at the Connell plant. Affected workers now have access to free medical treatment.

One wonders how, in a country in which the working class is meant to be exercising leadership, a bunch of Health Department bureaucrats can be so derelict in their duties, so totally dismissive of what workers themselves are saying, as to line up behind someone like the deputy manager of Connell, Wang Daxiang whose attitude was “We never discharged poisonous gases”.

In these circumstances, how can we not recall Chairman Mao’s scathing observation, in 1965, that “The Ministry of Public Health is not a Ministry of Public Health for the people, so why not change its name to the Ministry of Urban Health, the Ministry of Gentlemen’s Health, or even to Ministry of Urban Gentlemen’s Health?”

Extreme vigilance is required by the working class in China to defend the hard-won gains of the periods of revolution and construction, and to curb the arrogance and power of new elites who treat the workers with the same arrogance and contempt as do bourgeois elements everywhere.

(Sourced from Caijing Magazine, People’s Daily and various internet resources).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Condemn the coup in Nepal: the people will win!

(Maoist leader C.P. Gajurel told a 50,000 strong rally of supporters in Kathmandu on May 17, "Now we will capture the State!")

The Australian Government is a champion of parliamentary democracy, so you would expect that if a military commander defied an elected civilian government and forced the resignation of a Prime Minister then it might feel compelled to comment.

However, I don’t recall hearing anything from Rudd, Gillard or Stephen Smith, the Foreign Affairs Minister. The Department of Foreign Affairs has noted the “resignation of the Prime Minister on May 4” and issued an updated travel advisory notice calling on travellers to “exercise a high degree of caution in Nepal due to the uncertain political and security situation”.

The absence of any condemnation of this virtual coup is not surprising. The social-democratic Australian Labor Government is as much a supporter of US imperialism and international reaction as its predecessor, the conservative Howard Liberal Government.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) led a 20-year people’s war against the feudal monarchy and its social props, the Nepalese bourgeoisie and landlords. In 2006, a ceasefire was arranged and in 2008, the CPN (Maoist) surprised the international community by being the largest party in the elections to the Constituent Assembly.

Maoist leader Prachanda became Prime Minister at the head of a coalition government led by the Maoists.

His government determined that the head of the landlord-bourgeois Army of Nepal integrate into its ranks the fighters of the PLA. He refused. He was then stood down by Prime Minister Prachanda. He refused to step down, defying the elected government. He was encouraged in his defiance by the reactionary Nepal Congress Party and by the revisionist parties.

Prachanda has accepted the defiance as a declaration of disloyalty to, and sabotage of, the Constituent Assembly and walked out of the parliament, taking the struggle once more to the streets.

Like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who faced a coup in April 2002, Prachanda has now experienced the capacity of the old state machine to maintain its loyalty to reaction, to the old elites, and to maintain its monopoly on the machinery of violence to frustrate democracy.

Chavez rallied the people and stared down the plotters. Prachanda is rallying the people and will do likewise.

The words of Henry Lawson, great Australian poet, ring out with starling relevance:

We’ll make the tyrants feel the sting of those that they would throttle,
They need not say the fault is ours if blood should stain the wattle.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sison victory against "terrorist" slander


Press Release10 May 2009

Prof. Jose Maria Sison celebrates court victoryand launches two books in Amsterdam

Issued by International DEFEND Committee

Filipino and Dutch friends and well-wishers joined Prof. Jose Maria Sison in celebrating his legal victory in the Dutch courts and launching two new books containing his writings at the Mirror Centre in Amsterdam on 9 May 2009.

The books, entitled Democracy, Socialism and Peace and Democracy and Socialism against Imperialist Globalization, are the first two volumes of a four-volume series to be released this year.

On 30 March 2009 the Dutch Public Prosecution Service dropped the charges filed against Sison for allegedly ordering the killing of two Filipino military agents. Sison’s defense was handled by Michiel Pestman, Victor Koppe and Suus Hopman of the Bohler, Franken, Koppe & Wijngaarden law firm and his Philippine lawyers led by former UN judge Romeo T. Capulong of the Public Interest Law Center.

Sison was arrested on 28 August 2007 while Dutch police simultaneously broke into the office of the NDFP Peace Negotiating Panel and six colleagues' houses and carted away computers and voluminous paper files to search for so-called evidence. After 19 months of traveling back and forth to the Philippines interviewing dubious witnesses provided by the Philippine intelligence services, and a fruitless search for evidence from the computer and paper files the Dutch police had seized, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service has been forced to drop the evidently false charge against Sison.

The dismissal of the false charge of Prof. Sison is in accordance with the decisions of the District Court of The Hague, the Appellate Court and the examining judge ruling that there is no sufficient evidence and that the case has a political context involving the political motivation of the charge, the unreliability of witnesses provided by the Philippine government and the hindrances to Prof. Sison in cross-examining said witnesses and getting his own witnesses.

Rev. Hans Visser of the Committee DEFEND congratulated Sison for his victory in the court case. Committee DEFEND was set up by friends and sympathizers of Sison to defend him against political persecution after he was put on the terrorist list in August 2002 by the US and Dutch governments. Citing the current global economic crisis which has brought untold sufferings to millions of people around the world, Visser said that instead of a “terrorist list”, what is needed is a list of greedy capitalists who have dragged the world into the abyss of crisis.

Sivanandam Sivasegaram, a professor from Colombo, Sri Lanka, made a review of the first book Democracy, Socialism and Peace. He said that Sison’s writings are unambiguous in their aim to serve the Philippine people’s struggle for liberation, democracy and socialism. And for this he has paid a heavy price, he said. “The price includes incarceration in the Philippines under Marcos, forced exile and various forms of persecution and maltreatment by a combination of forces including the reactionary Government of the Philippines, its US imperialist master, and reactionary allies in the Government and the state apparatus of the Netherlands, including being branded as a 'terrorist', denial of political asylum, deprivation of employment and social benefits, unlawful detention; and threats of and attempts at assassination.” But he added that despite all these, Sison has been defiant in the face of adversity and has held firmly to his commitment to advance the Filipino people’s struggle and international solidarity against imperialism and reaction.

Bert de Belder, a Belgian doctor who stayed in the Philippines for 8 years, sharing his medical knowledge and helping to train “barefoot doctors” who served the needs of peasants in the countryside, made a review of the second book Democracy and Socialism against Imperialist Globalization. He said that well before the explosion of the full-blown global crisis in 2008, Sison had made well-grounded scientific analyses of the causes and implications of the ever-worsening crisis of the world capitalist system pointing out that such crisis was also laying the ground for socialism.

Rey Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center spoke on behalf of Aklat ng Bayan, the publisher of Sison’s two books. He said that Sison had predicted the current global crisis as early as eleven years ago. He said that the publication of the two volumes was heartily welcomed by progressive people in the Philippines who always wanted a compilation of Sison’s writings readily accessible.

At the end of the program, Sison thanked the Filipino people and friends and sympathizers from all over the world who had supported him in his long-running struggle against political persecution. He said that his court victory in the Dutch courts would help him in his battle at the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg to remove him from the European terrorist list.

After the short program, he signed copies of his books and had pictures taken with the book buyers and well wishers. The entire event was covered by live video stream on the Internet at launch

Friday, May 01, 2009

Marathon cleans up Mt Gee, gets dumped on at HQ

Marathon Resource’s clean-up of the despoiled Mt Gee site within the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary has now been formally approved by PIRSA, the government department overseeing minerals development in South Australia.

In anticipation of government approval for a resumption of exploratory drilling, major players, believed to include the shady Lebanese Black Pearl outfit, coal boss Ken Talbot, and Director John Lynley, have been buying up big. Lynely took up 375,000 shares at 40 cents each on April 24. Today, on May Day, they are worth 67.5 cents, or a neat $106,250 profit on an outlay of $150,000. Someone’s got to make these sacrifices to keep the capitalist system going!

Marathon has rather tamely declared that it will spend the next couple of months working out how best to proceed with its program, and has announced (yet another) resources upgrade with references to increased mineralization.

The reason for its subdued response to the PIRSA clean-up approval was the fact the Minerals Minister Holloway had told SA Parliament on Tuesday that there were still hurdles facing the company:

"Marathon's activities on this exploration lease brought to light some deficiencies in compliance and enforcement provisions of the Mining Act 1971 that need to be strengthened. In the coming months, I will be giving notice of proposed amendments to the Mining Act. As indicated to this council previously, the government will not contemplate any further ground disturbing activity by Marathon Resources on Exploration Licence 3258, at least until that legislation is in place."

Holloway is clearly trying to buy time: the State government faces an election next March and wants to minimise the impact of the Marathon issue in state politics.

Meanwhile, May Day started at the Marathon offices on Port Road with the discovery that “vandals” (surely as clear a case of the pot calling the kettle black as we are ever likely to find), had daubed the front door and the footpath with some sort of green slime. The capitalist press reports:

A chemical spill at Hindmarsh, suspected to be a protest against mining company Marathon Resources, brought traffic to a standstill today before playing havoc with a mass bikie run to Parliament House.

The pale-green substance, splashed across Marathon's front entrance, was found by employees as they arrived for work this morning.

The spill is believed to be a protest against Marathon's exploration of Mt Gee for uranium deposits.

Cleaning company Graffiti Kill SA was dispatched to clean up the spill, but when cleaner Richard Everson arrived at the scene, he quickly called the Environmental Protection Agency.

"It was giving off a foul smell, like ammonia," Mr Everson said.

Not wanting to risk a fine, he contacted the EPA - but, he says, they were busy.

"The woman I spoke to said it was going to be a while, and that I should call 000."

Emergency crews arrived moments later in over a dozen fire engines, police cars and ambulances, and shut down east-bound traffic on Port Road.

A hazardous materials team, sealed from head to toe in bright yellow chemical suits, entered the exclusion zone and collected samples of the substance.

They could not identify the substance, but determined it was not dangerous.

District officer Kevin Eckermann said that emergency services worked by the book.

"We've always got to assume the worst to protect our personnel and ensure the safety of the public," Mr Eckermann said.

Police later re-opened two of the three inbound lanes on Port Road while fire officers cleaned the spill.

Marathon Resources employees declined to comment, with CEO Peter Williams saying it would be "innappropriate" for him to speak.

Marathon Resources has been exploring Mt Gee, within the Arkoola Wilderness Sanctuary in the Flinders Ranges, for uranium. However, in January 2008, the Minister for Mineral Resources Development suspended the exploration licence after it was found that Marathon had dumped almost 23,000 bags of non-radioactive waste and 20 drums of samples within the sanctuary.

No group has claimed responsibility for the stunt.

And hold those congratulatory emails…it weren’t me!