Editorial Roundup for Monday — October 03, 2005

Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, Sunday, Sept. 2

Just as Hurricane Rita was battering the U.S. Gulf Coast states Saturday, the finance ministers and central bank governors of the Group of Seven richest nations held a meeting in Washington. The G-7 economic policy chiefs devoted much discussion to the problem of soaring crude oil prices.

The world’s oil markets have witnessed a constant supply of bad news that have contributed to pushing up the price of crude. Demand for oil in China and other Asian countries is growing rapidly. Yet the outlook for supplies remains murky because of the volatile situation in the Middle East, with peace and order in Iraq nowhere in sight.

On top of this, Hurricane Katrina plowed directly into the states along the Gulf of Mexico, badly damaging oil facilities centered in the region. The two hurricanes exposed the alarming vulnerabilities of the U.S. oil supply network.

The statement issued after the G-7 meeting presented eight key steps to stem the rise of oil prices. The document reflected a sense of urgency among the G-7 nations, which are apparently concerned about a possible return of stagflation, that painful combination of high inflation and low economic growth that gripped the world in the 1970s and 1980s.

Each member of the rich-nation club needs to do all it can to ensure that the necessary steps spelled out in the statement are implemented without fail.

Dagsavisen, Oslo, Norway, Tuesday, Sept. 2

Two weeks after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, militant Hamas demonstrated the will and ability to unleash violence again. With the weekend’s rocket attack, Hamas provoked strong Israeli reprisals. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, pressed by extreme forces in his own party, gave the military a free rein.

The actions show how easy it is to sabotage any approach to progress and a more peaceful development in the Middle East. Strong forces on the Israeli and Palestinian sides believe they gain most from confrontation. Only then can they achieve their ultimate goal: for some Israelis the dream of a Greater Israel that includes Palestinian areas. For some Palestinians, the goal is removing the entire state of Israel. Neither can achieve their unrealistic goals with a long and bloody team. …

The international community must, with all its power, support the moderate forces on both sides, which are fortunately the majority. There will be no peace in the Middle East until both sides accept an equal partner within internationally recognized nations, with recognized international borders.

The Star, Cape Town, South Africa, Wednesday, Sept. 2

They say a picture paints a thousand words, but so too did one phrase from the Health Ministry this week.

The ministry lambasted Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi for criticising President Thabo Mbeki and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

Vavi accused Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang of a lack of leadership on HIV and Aids. The Health Ministry’s response was to accuse Vavi of being a stooge of an “anti-retroviral drug lobby group” read the Treatment Action Campaign.

For a minister who consorts with pseudo-scientists who use poverty-stricken South Africans as guinea pigs, and who continues to give mixed messages to a citizenry ravaged by HIV and Aids, the latest Health Ministry statement should be viewed as hypocrisy of a special type. But it also showed that perhaps Aids activist Zackie Achmat’s belief that TAC is a victim of a sustained state-led campaign to discredit it may well be correct.

TAC isn’t alone. Ask any civil society organisation that dares to stand up and point out a few home truths what its like to be on the receiving end of state paranoia.

For the state to waste resources on perceived enemies and not on real threats, such as our crumbling public health system (which the minister recently saw with her own eyes when she visited Chris Hani-Baragwanath), speaks for itself.

The highest court in our land ruled in favour of TAC and did not dismiss it, as the government and its spin doctors are wont to do, as an anti-retroviral drug lobby group in the pocket of pharmaceutical companies or foreign backers.

This was an organisation intent on upholding our Bill of Rights, and which won in court.

Instead of using the language that it did to respond to Vavi, the government should have taken the opportunity to demonstrate to South Africans and the rest of the world that Vavi’s allegations were devoid of truth. The response was emotional and did not show marks of great leadership. Civil society organisations such as Cosatu and TAC have a huge role to play in our democracy and cannot be wished away.


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