Mass arrests of Algerian activists and journalists won’t do a thing to stop the resistance against corruption

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Monday 16 December 2019 16:14
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Algerians celebrate President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's resignation

Since the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the former president of Algeria, and his substitution by the senate speaker in questionable circumstances, Algeria is still in a critical state.

Over a period of 42 weeks, mass protests have grown and currently lots of demonstrations are denouncing the way that the recent election took place.

According to the opposition leaders, nothing concrete has been undertaken, and to add insult to injury, a huge number of senior officials of the former regime led by an “elected” president, are remaining in place. In fact, the same political system has been recycled with the objective of retaining power.

It should be recalled here that among their huge numbers, a symbolic figure who has been involved in the country’s administration during the last 20 years, is now playing a pivotal role. I’m talking about Ahmed Gaid Salah, the chief of staff of the army, who once appeared to have become the real ruler of Algeria, while the constitution prohibits political interference by the military.

This lieutenant general turned managing politico-executive, who, rather than solely attending to the concerns of the army, has given a number of broadcast speeches in and from military compounds bases, where he dealt with economic, social, cultural, political, financial and legal issues.

Today, the new regime embarks on a major enterprise to stifle what’s left of democratic and individual freedoms in the country. This move towards totalitarianism recently became evident through the arbitrary measures that were imposed on journalists and activists, which was followed by the campaign of oppression that led to bringing more than 1000 people before a judge.

Slander, gossip, and lies are among some of the charges made against them. As an example, authorities have charged these activists and reporters with: harming the morale of the army; breach of national unity and territorial integrity; and impugning the honour of persons of established bodies.

By exposing the cronyism, corruption and a long history of electoral fraud, journalists, activists and some leaders of the opposition have been qualified as agents and spies collaborating with other nations to undermine Algeria’s interests.

In my view, Algeria is not a democratic state governed by the rule of law and respect for human rights. In reality, it is run by one neo-group of military rulers. Their principal mission is to ensure the culmination of their project by blocking political progress.

Nevertheless, by walking the streets, millions of citizens want to put an end to this cycle of poor governance and push towards change. The oppressive power they live under is responsible not only for the destruction of the national economy, but for causing hopelessness and despair among people, young men in particular.

But the beautiful result today is that nothing can stop the desire for a better future. Indeed, many segments of Algerian society and its elite are fighting in solitude, but fighting strongly for the establishment of the rule of law, good governance, love, freedom, tolerance, and democratic emancipation.

The continued arrests of those who are fighting against violations of the right to speak and human rights is part of a campaign of intimidation aimed at silencing the witnesses of the widespread corruption and dictatorship. But it will be in vain.

Algerian citizens and activists will continue their peaceful protests, even in the face of imprisonment, judicial control and unjust dismissals.

Larbi Zouaimia
Address supplied

Democracy is in trouble

There is a “virus” infecting democracies across the world. From the rise of Trump in the USA, to the threat of the resurgent far right in Europe; from the increasing violence in the Middle and Far East, to Brexit closer to home, justifiable concerns about the future of our world are allowing fear to infect and dominate our lives.

The unfortunate symptoms of this infection include a desire to retreat from the world and a feverish drift towards xenophobia, nationalism, intolerance and, in extreme cases, racism.

It is somewhat ironic that the condition flourishes from such a reaction, the fear increases and the patient further deteriorates. The cure is “to throw open the windows and doors”, breathe the fresh air while we still have it and realise that for mankind to survive, now is the time to transcend those of isolationist nation states. But the time for treatment is running out.

John Dillon
Birmingham

The SNP needs to reflect

Since 2014, we have had two major and unprecedented referendums, three general elections and a Scottish parliamentary election.

Surely, now is the time for the healing of division. I expect we’ve all had enough.

However, this is unlikely when the first minister is using terms like “imprisoned”, “block the will” and “utter contempt” in her interviews, all with regard to the UK government.

When she appeared to cheer with childlike glee at Jo Swinson losing her seat, the optics did not look great either.

Labour is now entering a period of reflection. If only the SNP had embarked on a similar period of quiet contemplation in 2014.

David Bone
South Ayrshire

The scale of the Labour Party’s loss in the 2019 general election is not fully reflected in the size of Boris Johnson’s majority. The Brexit Party is now presumably history, and it will be hard to judge where its votes will go at any future election. However, the Labour Party should be reflecting not merely on the seats that it lost, but also on those that it held narrowly, which could easily have gone if there had been no Brexit Party. The combined votes of the Tories and the Brexit Party, in what are now new Labour marginals, would have given Johnson a really massive majority.

As ever, the left is in complete denial about the reasons for Labour’s loss, blaming anyone and everyone else: the press, the electorate’s failure to understand its wonderful manifesto, and so on. With so many lost votes, it will take the Labour Party at least two parliaments to recover. Meanwhile, unless Johnson surprises us all, many urgent social problems will not get the solutions that they desperately need, and that a sensible social democratic Labour Party could have provided within realistic budgets.

Gavin Turner
Norfolk

What the election means for hunting

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. That’s all we’ve heard for the past three years. But it’s not Brexit that concerns me, it’s Boris Johnson, the Eton Bullingdon boy now in charge of our lives.

I’m also worried for our wildlife, which will continue to be at the mercy of so-called trail hunts and terrier men thanks to this right-wing Tory government. I have fought relentlessly for 29 years to see an end to hunting cruelty and I’ve suffered abuse from pro-hunting sympathisers on an epic scale, but it would all have been worth the upset to see a more compassionate government in office.

I joined Labour to vote for a compassionate leader, and I believe we had one in Jeremy Corbyn. I detested all the smears from right-wing MPs and some parts of the media.

With the Labour left, I saw a chance to put an end to the badger cull and to stop one happening here in Wales. I was excited at the prospect of seeing the fox-hunt ban strengthened and to stop the myth of trail hunts. I was happily looking forward to a ban on snares and terrier work.

All this and my hope for more animal welfare pledges are now no more! I’m not alone in feeling greatly saddened by all those animal lovers who voted Tory. I feel they have betrayed our long-suffering persecuted wildlife and they have snubbed people like me who have given our lives to defending the weak.

I know many people who are all Brexit supporters and they don’t appear to care about animal cruelty to vote for compassion – it’s unlikely that we’ll ever speak again. This election, along with Brexit, has divided the nation and it has divided families. I doubt I have ever felt more fearful and depressed.

Judi Hewitt
Address supplied

We are the servants' Boris Johnson greets new MPs in Sedgeway after general election win

Not all trade deals take forever

Trade deals do not need to be difficult or prolonged.

The 2005 Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) was negotiated and signed in just over a year, despite opposition from the agricultural lobby in both countries.

This unmatched feat in trade negotiations was driven by the determination of John Howard, Australia’s then prime minister, and George W Bush, America’s then president, to strike a deal.

Political will determines the speed and serenity of international negotiations.

Will the EU put at risk its £94bn bilateral trade surplus with Britain?

Dr John Doherty
Vienna

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