local activist paul kellogg wasamong 32 foreign delegates arrested June 8 when police and sword-wielding paramilitaries raided an Asia-Pacific labour conference in Depok, Indonesia.Kellogg, editor of the Socialist Worker, and the others were accused by police of misusing their tourist visas by attending a convention.
Indonesian immigration officials, however, dismissed the police action as unwarranted, and a June 11 editorial in the Jakarta Post derided the police and their "thug friends" as throwbacks to the Suharto dictatorship. Most of the foreign nationals' embassies, including Canada's, intervened on their behalf, and by Monday all the delegates save one -- Farooq Tariq, leader of Pakistan's Labour Party -- were released without charges or conditions.
Liberal MP Bill Graham, chair of Canada's House standing committee on foreign affairs, says the incident underlines the need to defend Canadians' right to attend political conferences abroad. "Canada must use all efforts to ensure that Canadians are free to carry out lawful activities in other countries," he says.
Kellogg, speaking on the phone from Jakarta, says the Canadian government's responsibility in the area needs to extend far beyond getting Canuck travellers out of tight spots.
"Our corporations make billions of dollars out of investments here. The people of Canada have a responsibility to take issues of democratic rights in this country very seriously."