(Eng) 'Everyone is dying to get this one'

neil birrell (neil@lds.co.uk)
Sat, 20 Jan 1996 04:07:14 +0100


ARMS TRADE

So when was The United Arab Emirates last in the news? Probably when the
State was planning the murder of a sixteen year old Filipino maid who was
sentenced to death for protecting herself against an employer who was raping
her whilst holding a knife to her throat. The State, in this case,
considered it unacceptable for people to defend themselves from such
advances. But all is well. Sarah has been saved. The employer's family has
agreed to bleed her and her family by accepting compensation - in monetary
terms.

Ah yes... money talks. Never mind justice. Never mind morality. Let's talk
dollars - and lots of them please as the West queues up for what is being
billed as, 'the last great arms deal of the century'. Mind you. Don't hold
your breath ;-)

The UAE has announced that it wants to buy a little 'hardware' - 80 long
range strike aircraft to be precise and s/he's willing to pay =A34 billion=
for
them which puts the 'poor old' Duchess of York into some kind of
perspective. A UAE official has claimed that, 'Everyone is dying to get this
one'. 'Dying' did he say - some missed irony there perhaps...

France is first off the mark and indeed has a track record having managed to
off load =A32.4 billion in death machinery when she went in for a bit of the
old hard sell a while back. Hir Mirage 2000-5s are being put up against the
good old 'United' ;-) Kingdom's Tornados. And Bill is bringing up the rear
with a personal telephone call to his pal Sheik Zayed bin Sultan (a
murderous tyrant otherwise known as the 'President' of the UAE) asking him
to 'give us a chance' and buy a couple of F-16s or F-15Es.

In such a buyer's market the UAEs is indeed a spoilt child and is calling
for defence treaties (a la Kuwait my friends) with supplier countries. The
'U'K keeps a stiff upper lip tho' M. Chirac seemingly has no qualms and says
that La France is more than willing to rush a 70,000 strong rapid reaction
force, 120 warplanes and a couple o' hundred helicopters in should Sarah's
would-be butchers so require.

The dear old 'U'K hasn't given up the fight and still hopes that she will
sell hir Tornados - knowing as well as we do that they won't contribute one
iota to the UAEs defences - which will of course provide 'jobs' so recently
threatened by that nasty Mohammed Mas'ari - now happily out of the=
headlines.

In fact (surprise, surprise ;-)) the whole thing is _indeed_ one big con.
One strategic analyst in the region calls it, 'the most clear cut example of
the uselessness of military expenditure in the Middle East'. And don't
forget folx _we_ are talking _expenditure_ when it boils down to this region
(oil/dollars/oil/dollars/oil/dollars..)

The UAEs would be agressor is seemingly Iran - but it's geographical
location and small population would make any defence against such a country
nonsensical if not seen within the Saudi Arabian context and even this
country, though we had armed hir to the hilt, was pretty quick to ask for
Western protection against Sadaam Hussein (still there of course). Watch out
folx - there will be a few more body bags from the middle East before the
year 2000... especially if we keep pumping arms into the area.

---------------------------
Of course it's not just the UAE which is to blame when we come to the
subject of human rights abuse of Filipino workers. Here's a story from the
'U'K..

THE BIG ISSUE
FEATURES

I WAS A DOMESTIC SLAVE
----------------------

scanned article

My husband died not long after we were married, leaving me with two small
children. I come *om a poor farming family in the Philippines and even
though I had two jobs - one book-keeping, the other selling fish in the
market there was never enough money. The are only two options for women to
earn money in the Philippines - by working as a prostitute, which I couldn't
bear, or to go overseas to do domestic work. My sister said she'd look after
my children for me, so I borrowed 20,000 Filipino pesos @ (=A33,500) from a
loan shark to register with an agency. When I @a left my country seven years
ago my children were three and four. =20

I knew nothing about England when I arrived. The couple I worked for were
professionals - he was a Saudi diplomat - and my contract said they should
pay me =A3180 per month, that I should have a day off every week and holiday
entitlement after one year. I would be given clothes, have access to medical
attention, accommodation and work a 10-hour day.

It felt strange being in a new place and I missed my children. My employers
decided straight away that I would receive only =A3120 per month, not much,
but enough to send something home. After six weeks I still hadn't received
my salary. Every time I asked for it they refused and eventually threatened
to send me back to the Philippines if I continued to complain. How could I
go home? I could never afford to pay off my debts, or to support my family.
And under British law I wasn't allowed to work for any other employer in
this country. =20

These rich and powerful people had complete control over me. In the 11
months I worked for them I didn't have a day off. I wasn't even allowed to
go outside. I was given two old uniforms left behind by a previous employee
and every day I had to wash one and wear one. =20

The violence started one day when I hadn't cleaned the carpet by hand as the
woman had told me to. She threw a glass ashtray at me in anger. That's when
I realised I was being treated as a slave. =20

I worked all day from 5.30am until late in the evening. I@or the whole time
I was there I wasn't allowed to talk to anybody. If my employers had a
visitor who brought their own helper I had to stay in the kitchen and was
forbidden to speak. If the electrician came, my ermployer would watch me all
the time so I wouldn't talk to him. =20

The abuse got worse and worse. I wanted to run away but I'd never been out
in London - I didn't know anything and I had nowhere to go. =20

Then one evening, when my employers were going to a dinner party, the woman
was looking for something to wear and discovered a jumper I'd ruined in her
cupboard. She'd told me to hand wash it and I'd forgotten. She threw it in
my face, shouted and swore at me and said she would deduct it from my=
salary. =20

I protested, because it was a rnistake and they hadn't paid my @alary for
five months. She was furious and slapped my face. I started crying, and
raised my hands in self defence. By this time h@r husband was standing in
the doorway. She turned to him and told him I'd slapped her. He became
furious, grabbed me round the neck and started choking me. His hands were E
getting tighter and I couldn't move or breathe. He was choking me to
death. The woman suddenly looked scared. She screamed his name and he
loosened his grip. I was left lying on the floor. That was when I
decided I had to go, to save my life. =20

When my employers went out to dinner I packed my things and crept
downstairs. The porter of the apartment block helped me escape. He advised
me to call the police in case my employers tried to charge me with stealing
things. The police were sympathetic towards me, but after they'd been to
speak to my employers their attitude changed. They said they could do
nothing because I'd worked for diplomats. All they could do was get my
passport and a ticket home from my employers. My visa had nearly expiredj
and they said that when it did I had to go. =20

A woman I met on the street the next day took me to the Carmelite Church in
Kensington. The priest there told me about the Kalayaan campaign. They help
people like me, by trying to change the visa laws so we don't become
criminals if we try to work after escaping from abuse. Although I'm now an
illegal immigrant they helped me find cleaning jobs. I'm not eligible for
any financial support from the British State, and I don't ask for it. All I
ask is to be allowed to work. =20

My children are now 10 and 11 and more than anything else I want to see
them. I would be allowed to leave Britain, no problem, but I would never be
allowed back. I can't go back and live in my country until I have enough
money to keep us off the streets and pay off my debt. It breaks my heart
that I can't be with them."=20

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