Protestors threaten to target G8 summit in Japan


Apr 16 (AFP)

Protestors seeking to disrupt International Monetary Fund and the World Bank meetings here warned Sunday that their next target is Japan, which hosts the Group of Eight summit in July.

�We are going to take similar actions in Okinawa in July for the G8 meeting,� said Carolina Aranllo, vice chairperson of Bayan, a non-government organisation based in the Philippines.

�We will link up all peace activists in Japan, anti-nuclear activists and anti-imperialist groups,� Aranllo, who came from Manila to join the rallies here, representing 600,000 members of her group.

�We all are going to be there at the G8,� she said.

Japan will host the prestigious summit on July 21-23 in Okinawa, drawing the leaders from the eight major industrialized nations, including US President Bill Clinton and Russian president-elect Vladimir Putin.

�A lot of momentum came out of Seattle and a lot of momentum are coming out of this,� Elana Berkowitz said, referring to protests at a World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle last November.

�We want to continue this momentum,� said the 20-year-old American university student, who joined a human chain blocking access to the downtown headquarters of the two organizations here.

Japan plans to mobilise tens of thousands of police and troops to the venue in Okinawa, which will be the nation's first G8 summit to be held outside Tokyo.

�We need to start coordination with ministries concerned to prepare for a possible riot in Okinawa if protestors are really thinking of holding a big demonstration,� a Japanese government official said.

�We may have to report this situation to the government, when we go back,� said the official, who declined to be named.

G8 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Ahead of the G8 summit, Japan will also host a separate meeting of the Group of Seven finance ministers in Fukuoka, northeast of Okinawa, in early July. G7 includes all the G8 nations except Russia.

In March, Jubilee 2000, a group seeking debt relief for poor countries, warned in Tokyo that they would protest loudly at the G8 meeting.

Jubilee 2000 said a human chain of 50,000 protestors during last year's G8 summit in Cologne had been instrumental in leading to an expanded, accelerated G8 initiative to provide Third World debt relief.

Last week, Japan announced it would cancel 1.3 billion dollars in outstanding debts owed by the world's 40 poorest countries but campaigners decried the move as misleading and inadequate.

Rushdie Creates Sensation on His Return to India


EW DELHI, Apr 16

The long, hurtful exile of Salman Rushdie has ended. Barred from India for more than a decade after it banned his novel �The Satanic Verses,� a playful, bantering Mr. Rushdie is back with a long-sought visa in hand.

He came, he said, to repair his broken relationship with the native land that has inspired much of his fiction.

For a full week, Mr. Rushdie and his son, Zafar, 20, who has not been in India since he was 4, roamed freely around many of the tourist sites of north India � the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Red Fort in Delhi, the City Palace in Jaipur � with nary a whisper about their presence in the country's cacophonous riot of newspapers.

�India rushes in on you from every direction,� Mr. Rushdie said in an interview on Saturday. �I'm suffering from a kind of overload. I just wanted to put myself back in the place and bring my son, Zafar. He was very keen to come. And that became the meaning of the trip for me, this father and son moment.�

Their anonymous trek finally dissolved in a blaze of popping flash bulbs on Friday evening when Mr. Rushdie and his son made a grand entrance at the Commonwealth Writers Prize ceremony here with all of New Delhi's literati looking on.

Mr. Rushdie was promptly swarmed by journalists and well-wishers. His latest novel, �The Ground Beneath Her Feet,� lost the best book prize to �Disgrace� by the South African writer J. M. Coetzee, but Mr. Rushdie was still the star of the show.

�Just because you didn't find me, you shouldn't assume that I'm in hiding,� Mr. Rushdie gleefully told reporters who crushed around him.

As the news of Mr. Rushdie's arrival spread, Muslim organizations that said they had been offended by �The Satanic Verses� organized protests. One group burned him in effigy. But earlier threats of violence did not materialize, and the demonstrations were relatively small.

Mr. Rushdie thanked his critics for the civilized nature of their protests. �If they don't like what I write, I'm sorry,� he said. He also spoke of India in tones of reconciliation. The Congress Party government that banned his book is history, he said. And while he would love to see the ban lifted, he said he had done no lobbying on the current visit.

�I have to leave behind the past to be able to go on,� he said.

Mr. Rushdie's security seemed almost as relaxed as he was. A crowd of reporters showed up Saturday at the Taj Palace Hotel in hopes of talking to him. None were searched before they reached the first floor, where he was holding court. He emerged for a few minutes to talk to all assembled, then entertained some one-on-one interviews.

As a clutch of people pressed in on him, Mr. Rushdie, wearing a long, loose shirt known as a kurta and pajama-style pants, said wryly that he would feel less regretful about the banned novel �if people would just read my 11 other books.�

Mr. Rushdie, with his acute eye for life in India, has been cut off from the country where he was born since �The Satanic Verses� was published in 1988, one of the many blows he sustained after the book came out. The most disastrous was the fatwa, or religious edict, issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni in 1989. The Iranian leader, now dead, charged Mr. Rushdie with blasphemy against Islam and called for his death.

A little more than a year ago, India finally granted Mr. Rushdie, who now lives in London, a visa to enter the country, with approval coming from the highest levels of the Hindu-nationalist-led government in New Delhi.

This was his first visit since he got the visa, and it has had a kind of Rip Van Winkle quality. The dozen years he has been gone have seen India undergo major changes. The Congress Party, which ruled India through the Nehru-Gandhi family dynasty, has fallen low, and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has risen. The government-dominated economy has had almost a decade of greater openness to foreign investment and market forces.

�It's very clear there's a lot more money sloshing around,� Mr. Rushdie said. �In the newspapers there's a lot of coverage of the high life of the rich middle class. Almost daily there are color supplements detailing the antics of the gilded age.�

The Grand Trunk Road seemed to him wider and smoother, but it carried him past the rich roadside life more quickly than he would have liked. The omnipresence of Coca-Cola ads made him hopeful, he said, that Thumbs Up � a local cola drink he despises � has been eclipsed. (It is still alive and well.)

In politics, a subject Indians love to chew on, he bemoaned what he saw as the Congress Party's tilt rightward under Sonia Gandhi, the dynasty's latest steward. �One can't help feeling the old gang � the dynastic group and its supporters � is preventing the emergence of new kinds of leaders in the Congress Party,� he said.

And Mr. Rushdie, who comes from a Muslim family, said the Hindu nationalists were more moderate under the aging Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. But Mr. Rushdie predicts that the coalition government will fall apart once Mr. Vajpayee ceases to lead it � and that the Hindu nationalists will revert to an intolerant Hindu triumphalism, which he likened to fascism.

As Mr. Rushdie introduced his son to the intense smells and sounds and street life of India, he took him to the family's peaceful ancestral property at Solan in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh. He said he hoped to turn the family home, Anees Villa, into a small writer's colony if he could find someone to administer it.

And Mr. Rushdie, who leaves India today, said he planned to return often. �I intend to make it extremely boring,� he said. �Instead of everyone flocking to see Rushdie, it's going to be, "Oh, there he is again." Boring people is the best way to regain normal life. I intend to bore India into submission.�

All Over the Globe is published by IPA House.
© 1998 IPA House. All Rights Reserved.