Thursday, 20 March 2008

Stop Carmageddon!

This is a loose discussion document to start a debate within the left wing movement in Cardiff on developing an alternative transport plan for the city based on principles of ecology, social justice and equality. We also need to talk about how we facilitate more walking and cycling. We need trade unions to push for work-based initiatives to encourage car-share, cycling to work and sustainable town planning to cut down journeys. It is a work-in-progress. Any feedback, comments or criticism welcome! By Joe Redmond, Workplace Environmental Union rep and Adamsdown RESPECT candidate.

* Cardiff Respect believes there should be an integrated publicly owned transport system within the city of Cardiff. This should include trains, buses and even trams, all of which could be boarded using a fixed price (£1) ticket, valid on any combination of transport modes for one hour from the time you board – ample time to travel across the city.

* There is massive support for the re-introduction of a tram system in Cardiff and the city is not too big to introduce circular lines linking the two train stations and civic centre, with further routes attainable along St Mary Street and towards Cardiff Bay.

* The massive multi-million pound building project of St David’s 2 provided the perfect opportunity for the council to investigate this dramatic move but they are only concerned with building hundreds of additional shops which will turn Cardiff into just another clone town.

* The Lib Dem (and previously New Labour) council rather than tackle traffic congestion are building more roads, accommodating more cars and allocating more space for parking. Most of this parking is provided by private companies, such as NCP, charging upwards of £8.50 per day (roughly £4,000 a year!).

* The Lib Dems and New Labour councillors advocate a congestion charge which will mean roads for the rich – who can continue to drive their cars while working class people, already feeling the pinch from low wages, spiralling fuel costs and rising mortgage rates will have to fork out thousands of pounds a year just to get to their jobs.

* The current rail network excludes the most populous edges of the city, yet serves middle class areas like Lisvane and Llanishen where the majority of residents have at least two cars. A rail link should be introduced from Ely to St Mellons & Pentwyn (via the city centre). This would allow working class people the option of leaving their car at home without depending on unreliable public buses.

* Cardiff Respect believes there should be no privatisation of Cardiff Bus. The decline of the railways serves as an example of the failure of the profit motive in transport. Less popular routes will be cut – cutting elderly and disabled people off from doctors, shops, post offices and other vital services.

* Free Public Transport: Cardiff should investigate the examples of European cities with completely free bus services. In the Belgian city of Hasselt, a local council has abolished bus-fares, leading to a 900% increase in public transport use and a spectacular decline in car use and congestion. This is a highly effective measure to tackle climate chaos, radically lowering the city's carbon footprint. It is also a key social justice reform: 1 in 3 people do not drive or own a car. It is the poor who have least access to decent transport. Free public transport helps those on low incomes fully participate in society.
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Saturday, 8 March 2008

International Women's Day

Today is International Women’s Day. Palestinian refugee Fatima Helou celebrates the women resisting occupation today. This article was first published on International Women's Day 2005.

Amnesty International has just published a disturbing report on the plight of women in Iraq. The report reveals how sanctions, war and occupation have wiped out years of advances made by Iraqi women. Two years of war and occupation have driven women into the home, seen their jobs disappear and their rights eroded.

It is an indictment of the world today that this report should be published on the eve of International Women’s Day, a day that should see women celebrating everywhere.

Even though there seems little to cheer about, International Women’s Day touches women all over the world. This year we should dedicate this day to the women of Iraq and Palestine.

Since we lost our homeland in 1948 Palestinian women have taken part in the struggle as sisters, wives and mothers. We have fought occupation and oppression hand-in-hand with men.

Women sold their jewellery to buy weapons, faced imprisonment for their dissent, defied humiliation and took up arms for their liberation. Many have embraced death for our freedom.

I would like to dedicate this day to the memory of a young woman, barely in her twenties, who took up arms in 1978 to fight for the liberation of Palestine.

Dalal al-Mugrabi was killed on the orders of Ehud Barak, later a prime minister of Israel. She had just led a commando raid in Israel. The punishment for her resistance continued after her death, as the Israeli troops refused to bury her body. She has become a symbol for all Palestinian women.

On this day I remember the women of Shatilla refugee camp in Lebanon where I was born, and where I lived under siege as a teenager in the mid 1980s.

I had survived the Sabra and Chatilla massacre during the Israeli invasion of 1982. But four years later, we found ourselves once again fighting for our very survival.

We were in the midst of a siege by a Lebanese militia force. Our food was running out and water was becoming scarce. Nevertheless, the young women in the camp gathered to mark International Women’s Day.

It was the first time I had heard about such a celebration. We were given a carton of juice—a luxury during the siege—and the women made speeches calling for equality and freedom.

Women, we were told, had to be at the centre of the struggle for our own liberation, and on this day millions of women around the world were also fighting for their survival—whether under occupation, against war, poverty or for their basic rights.

I, and many of my sisters, felt for the first time that we were part of a global struggle. That night in 1986 brought us hope because we no longer felt isolated and abandoned.

I would like to dedicate this day to the women living under occupation today—the thousands of women in Palestine and Iraq who find themselves at the head of families. Women who have to step into the shoes of men to carry on the struggle for survival. Women who, through war, find themselves becoming both mother and father. Women who have to find food to feed their families as their husbands, sons and brothers rot in prison, or are killed or maimed.

On this day we should remember how small acts of defiance are important, such as the defiance shown by two schoolgirls from Hebron who resisted attempts by Israeli soldiers to humiliate them. They suffered beatings and imprisonment at a military checkpoint after they refused an order to undress in front of the soldiers.

I would also like to dedicate this day to the thousands of women across the world who show their solidarity, and through their campaigns and small deeds have broken the isolation many of us feel.

Most of all I would like to dedicate International Women’s Day to the millions of women around the world whose daily battle against all odds keeps our hope for a better future alive.

Fatima Helou is a Palestinian refugee living in Scotland. She was seriously wounded in an Israeli airstrike during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. She survived the Sabra and Shatilla massacre that year and the War of the Camps in 1986. Fatima fled Lebanon after an attempt on her life for her campaign to indict Ariel Sharon and Lebanese warlords for their role in the massacre. She is currently facing deportation back to Lebanon under New Labour’s asylum laws.

Saturday 15 March will see a demonstration in London to mark the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq - coaches will be going from Cardiff. Email - for more information.