At last, a voice
Sir-- During the years I have been exposed to pan-Arab writings, I have never come across such objective writing about Southern Sudan as was in 'The Sudanese issue: the view from the South' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 April, 2003). It was magnificent to show Sudanese problems through the lens of the South, since it has never been the case in the Arab world's stand on Sudan. It is important that Southern Sudan's visions of resolving the nation's many conflicts are not overlooked or propagated to suit the tastes of the extremists from Khartoum. What Al-Ahram Weekly is doing is to ensure fair coverage of both the North and the South.
It is a great move for Egypt to consolidate and regain trust from Janoub Al-Sudan [South Sudan]. As a result of the usual prejudice against the black Africans in the south, some of us have always been apprehensive and distrustful of any representation about Southern Sudan coming from the Arab world. As far as I am concerned, I think there has been a shift in the paradigm. Many Egyptians may not be able to fathom this, but Egyptians are unpopular amongst the south Sudanese because they are viewed as part of the pollution -- and not the solution -- when it comes to Sudanese politics.
As Sudan may now be experiencing peace prior to the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement between the SPLM and Khartoum, it should be a priority for Cairo to rebuild the tainted trust with its counterparts in Janoub Al--Sudan.
Mading N A Kuai
Sir-- Mr Salama A Salama's conclusion in 'Ukraine as model' ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 17 - 23 February) that Ukraine serves as the model by which the US plans to spread liberty and democracy in the Arab world, has caused the urge to comment. Indeed, now the US administration desperately pretends to be the major force in supporting the recent democratic and peaceful uprising against the old corrupted and unpopular regime. This is not more than a PR campaign, as Mr Bush badly needs to show any success of his foreign policy.
Moreover, the old regime headed by the disgruntled president Leonid Kuchma had enjoyed warm relations with Washington for years. Even after the US had rejected to accept Mr Kuchma's third term in the office and began to criticise him, he sent troops to Iraq and received a lot of thanks for his contribution to the "war on terror". Until now, his son-in-law -- the richest oligarch Victor Pinchuk -- enjoys the closest relations with the US establishment, providing luxury trips to Ukraine for his "personal guests", including George Bush Sr, Richard Holbrooke, Wesley Clarke and others.
The newly elected president, who has enormous popularity, Victor Yushchenko had often promised that he would not be directed from neither Washington nor Moscow. Now he is facing a very tough job. During the campaign, he promised to withdraw the Ukrainian troops from Iraq as soon as he is elected, because the Ukrainians are overwhelmingly against their military presence there.
It seems now Mr Yushchenko is under pressure from Washington not to move quickly, since he avoids to announce when he will keep his promise and the terms of withdrawal.
Sir-- With deep interest and extreme alarm, I read the story written by reporter Fayza Rady 'Survival at stake' ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 10-16 March). I would like to inform you of the following:
1) The reporter in question did not take the trouble to contact the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU), which is located a few metres away from the offices of your revered Al-Ahram Establishment. Instead, she relied in her investigation on inaccurate and undocumented information about the circumstances of the strike by the workers of Qalyoub Spinning Factory (QSF).
2) The reporter relied on the statements made by Mr Kamal Abbas of the Centre for Trade Unions Workers' Services, in Helwan, although this centre is not part of the Trade Union Organisation of the workers of Egypt and is funded by foreign organisations solely interested in harming the Egyptian labour union movement.
3) The reporter did not ask for the opinion of the General Trade Union of Textile Workers in Egypt (GTUTW) or inquire about the measures the latter took to safeguard the rights of the workers.
The details of the industrial action taken by the workers of QSF, which is an affiliate of Esco, the silk and cotton corporation, are as follows:
1) The QSF was rented to an investor as of March 2004 for LE2.5 million per year. The terms of the lease give the investor the right to buy the factory if it is offered for sale. During the period in which the QSF was leased, the workers made no complaints.
2) The holding company announced its intention to sell the QSF in September 2004, upon which the workers held their first strike, asking to be given voluntary early retirement or be allowed to go back to the mother company, Esco.
3) The factory was sold to the investor who had been leasing the QSF as of 1 December 2004 for LE4.5 million. The contract of sale gives the investor ownership of the equipment and machines, but the land continues to be owned by the state and rented by the investor.
4) The contract obliges the buyer to keep the workers of the company, a total of 400 workers and staff, in their jobs. The contract also obliges the buyer to pay all the salaries, allowances, security insurance, and other salary-related payments to the workers in accordance with the latest salary they received from the company on 1 December 2004.
According to the contract, the buyer must abide by all Egyptian laws and regulations concerning the employment and rights of workers. The buyer must also honour, as of 1 December 2004, all the wage increases introduced by law or ministerial decrees.
According to the contract, the buyer must pay the employer's share in social security, taxes and duties. The buyer must continue to provide the workers with full financial and material benefits and the same social and health care the workers enjoyed prior to 30 November 2004.
A report by the holding company, discussing the concerns of the workers regarding the sale, notes that the investor has agreed to pay the annual wage increase at seven per cent of the salary as well as the social allowances announced by the government each July, together with all other allowances.
The GTUTW has called on the workers to continue to perform their jobs, because their discontinuation of work subjects them to the penalties stated in Labour Law 12 for 2003.
The GTUTW, which has a long-standing tradition, rejects all interference in its affairs by anyone. The GTUTW is an integral part of the national labour union community, which strongly objects to blackmail by intellectual adolescents. We agree to and believe in objective dialogue with any worker of the honourable sons of Egypt, for we have agreed to the economic transformation and see it as a task we have to perform in order to adapt to international changes and developments. We are totally committed to defending the full rights of our workers. We're also mature enough to reject the custodianship of others.
Sir-- This is a letter to the Minister of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities Ibrahim Suleiman.
You mentioned some remarkable figures in your long speech on 22 February at Beni Sweif, but in fact you and your ministry have wasted a lot of money. Even if we took into consideration the 10-fold inflation since 1982, and even if we disregard that in the period between 1952 and 1982 Egypt had three wars and a number of economic crises, the following are some discrepancies:
You said that in 2004, you invested LE602 million to produce 194 litres of pure water per day per capita, while in 1982 only LE16 million were invested to produce 67 litres per day per capita. But in reality, with LE602 million you should actually produce at least 252 litres/day/capita; this means you wasted about LE140 million.
You said that in 2004, you invested LE372 million in sewage works to produce 57 litres/capita, while in 1982 only LE3 million were invested to produce 8 litre/capita. But in reality, with LE372 million, you are supposed to produce at least 98 litres/capita; this means you wasted about LE160 million.
And that goes with the rest of your figures. Do you have another explanation for these figures?
Mohey Eldin Gharib