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Luis Jalandoni and his wife Coni Ledesma (see below for contact and itinerary details) are in Christchurch now, at the start of a national speaking tour (they leave Christchurch on the morning of Wednesday 27th for Blenheim and to view the Waihopai spybase that afternoon).
Luis Jalandoni is the International Representative of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF, www.ndfp.net), a post that he has held since 1977, and since 1994 he has been the Chairperson of the NDF’s Negotiating Panel for peace talks with the Government of the Philippines. The NDF is the coalition of several underground groups, including the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army, which has been waging a war of liberation throughout the Philippines for more than 40 years, making it one of the longest running armed struggles in the world.
The country desperately needs peace with justice and security, so resolving this people’s war is central to that. Within the past few days the Philippine government, under President Benigno Aquino, has named its negotiating panel to resume the peace talks with the NDF, facilitated by the Norwegian Government (these talks were frozen since 2005 under the former presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo).
Luis Jalandoni says that it is “regrettable” that, just within the past couple of weeks, the New Zealand Government has added the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army to its list of “international terrorist” organisations (the National Democratic Front is not on this list in any country, including NZ). This move will do nothing towards aiding the peace process in the Philippines, one of our closest Asian neighbours. Many thousands of Filipinos now live and work in New Zealand, making a valuable contribution to our economy and society. New Zealand can play a positive role in helping to remedy the very reasons which drive millions of Filipinos to seek work and a better life overseas. Helping the peace process is one way; labelling people as “terrorists” helps nobody and is a kneejerk reaction to the American-led hysteria that brands as “terrorists” all and any groups deemed inimical to the interests of the US and its allies in the ill-defined and endless “war on terror”.
And John Key’s statement announcing the addition of the CPP/NPA to this list was factually incorrect when he said that they “indiscriminately kill civilians”. In fact, they go to great pains not to kill or wound civilians in their operations against military targets in this civil war. They do not use the tactics of real terrorists, such as suicide bombers, car bombs, etc, which do deliberately and indiscriminately target civilians. If they did they would have long since lost the support of the significant proportion of the Philippine population which actively supports them. If Key wants to punish people in the Philippines who indiscriminately kill and terrorise civilians, he should start with the Philippine government and its military, police and paramilitary forces who routinely murder, abduct, “disappear” and torture civilians. The “lucky ones” become political prisoners on trumped up charges which take years to grind through the courts. The Philippines has an appalling human rights record against any kind of peaceful opposition activists, so much so that when Helen Clark was Prime Minister she raised it directly with then President Arroyo, and one result was the NZ Human Rights Commission setting up an ongoing project in the Philippines.
Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma’s tour presents a unique opportunity to hear firsthand about a four decades long war, and accompanying peace process, in our own backyard that is almost totally unknown to New Zealanders. It is even more important now that the NZ Government has applied the blanket label of “terrorist” to one side in that war.