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11/2/2008

White Farmers on Radio Qman Txun Swim 12 Hours For Land

Filed under: fiji,media,rampage — admin @ 4:15 am

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A tourist left behind on a dive trip swam all night, covering nearly 10
kilometers through shark-infested water before reaching land in Taveuni,
Fiji Monday.

If there’s a model of hope for the world’s indigenous peoples, it is the
town of Todos Santos Cuchumatan in northwestern Guatemala. The Mayans who
live here still wear their traditional clothing with pride and practice
their traditional ceremonies and customs, and 95 percent of the population
still speaks Mam. At the same time, the people of Todos Santos also
participate vigorously in the larger society and have a thriving economy.

Some white farmers whose land was acquired by the Government for
resettlement purposes have reportedly destroyed maize fields belonging to
new farmers in Mashonaland West, claiming that the land was theirs.

Thomas Holz, 40, of Berlin, Germany, was out a scuba diving trip with three
other tourists at Rainbow Reef, near Viani Bay in Vanua Levu, according to
the local Fiji Times.

The key to this indigenous success story is Radio Qman Txun, the town’s
community radio station. The station’s programs reinforce the local
language and the culture while also bringing news from the nation and the
world into the town. The station is all the more important because the
whole country of Guatemala is flooded with Western music, information, and
cultural standards, and without Radio Qman Txun, those influences would
quickly overwhelm the town.

He surfaced after running out of oxygen and waited for the dive master to
return with the other divers. A local police spokesman said that when the
dive master resurfaced with the other tourists, they couldn’t find Holz.
They searched until nightfall, and began again early at 5 a.m. Monday.

At least two new farmers who had done dry planting had their germinating
maize crop destroyed recently. It is said that the white farmers are
refusing to vacate the land and to recognise the new farmers’ offer
letters. One new farmer Colonel Tony Kapanga said he lost over 20 hectares
of his maize crop on Wednesday after the former owner of his Chingford Farm
in Selous Mr Colin Cloete allegedly ploughed the land. He said he also lost
billions of dollars worth of fertiliser he had applied to the crop.

“The currents were strong, and my main fear was for my family in Germany.
Even though I was tired, I hung on to the oxygen cylinder and kept
swimming,” Holz told the Fiji Times. “Then early this morning, I felt the
seabed and just screamed out for help before I collapsed on the shore.”

But Radio Qman Txun, along with all the other community radio stations in
Guatemala, is at extreme risk. Elements in the government do not want these
stations to succeed. In past few weeks police have raided four radio
stations near Todos Santos and confiscated all the equipment. The country’s
constitution guarantees the right to community radio, but the
telecommunications law does not, and government forces are using the
pretext of this law to shut down the stations and cut off this vital
cultural lifeline.

Police at Selous confirmed the incident saying they had opened
investigations into the matter. When contacted for comment Mr Cloete said
he had ploughed down the maize seed because Col Kapanga was not supposed to
be on the farm. “Selous Police have recorded my statement and are charging
me with malicious damage to property but when Mr Kapanga was disturbing me
no one came to my rescue. This is my farm and the house in which the police
details are housed is my father’s house, so how do you explain this,’’ said
Mr Cloete.

A local woman heard his cries and helped him from shore. Holz has recovered
and is continuing his tourist activities on an eco tour.

This assault on Mayan culture has to stop, and right now we have a unique
chance to do it: a new telecommunications bill has been introduced in the
Guatemalan Congress, and recent elections resulted in 94 of the 158 members
of Congress being new. We have a very short window of time to reach these
new legislators before they are swamped with conflicting agendas. And the
math is all too simple: for the new bill to pass, 80 legislators must vote
for the bill. Currently, we have the support of 24; we need 56 more.

At Maunze Farm in Darwendale employees of one Mr J S Crowley allegedly
ploughed down more than six farmers’ fields which had maize seed. One of
the affected farmers Mr Roy Chinanga claimed he had nine hectares of maize
destroyed by Mr Crowley’s managers. “I used seed from last year’s reserves
but that has now been ploughed down and I do not have anywhere to turn
to,’’ said Mr Chinanga. Mr Crowley could not be reached for comment as he
was said to be living in Harare.

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