Portugal falls out with CPLP partners

Durban- South Africa (PANA) -- The Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) would invest time towards building consensus on how to deal with the various delicate issues related to racism, slavery and colonialism, its Executive Secretary Dulce Pereira has said.
At the Durban World Conference against Racism, CPLP member states are divided on the issue of a formal apology for slavery and colonialism and reparations for the victims, reports the Mozambique news agency.
It said Friday that the African states (five out of the seven CPLP members) want Portugal and its European Union allies to issue formal apologies for past wrongs as a moral imperative.
However, Portugal is one of four European former colonial powers that reject the idea of issuing an apology.
Lisbon would rather prefer if the Africans agreed to an expression of "regret", something much weaker than a full apology.
Fearing that an apology would make it vulnerable to litigation, Portugal in tandem with Britain, Holland and Spain have lobbied heavily other EU members so that the EU will present a united front against an apology.
Once again it has become clear that Portugal values its membership of the EU much more highly than its membership of the CPLP - even though it was Portugal that was the driving force behind setting up the CPLP in the first place.
Pereira, who is a Brazilian, told journalists in Durban, moments after she laid a wreath at the monument to the Portuguese 19th century poet Fernando Pessoa, who lived in Durban.
"It's clear that each one of our countries is part of regional groupings that aren't the same, and have political responsibilities apart from those of the CPLP," she said.
Any unlocking of the situation would thus require negotiations between the CPLP members.
Portugal's position could be understood, she said, given that the question of reparations was so delicate that "it is not even the consensus among countries that were victims of colonisation.
" "It's a serious issue.
It's an issue that I say that must be treated post-Durban", she said, warning that "if we deal with it in a linear way, many African countries will have to pay reparations to other African countries.
"It's necessary that we be careful so as not to set traps for the vulnerable".
This can be understood against the background that Angola had submitted a proposal to force South Africa to pay 10 billion rands (about 117.
6 million US dollars) for the military incursions carried out during the apartheid era into its territory.
However, Angola ended up by dropping this claim.
Regarding the discrimination against immigrants in Portugal, Pereira was cautious.
She noted that not only did Africans and Brazilians face problems in Portugal, but Portuguese immigrants in other countries also suffered discrimination.
"This is a moment to understand how much we've achieved, discuss historical links, and particularly avoid any repetition of the past.
We must also banish the slavery that still exists in the world", she stressed.
It would depend on the member states to take the issues of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance to the executive secretariat, she said, adding "surely it will be an initiative of the member states to bring possible proposals to the executive".
She suggested that the member countries must take advantage of the political conditions created within the body to deal with delicate issues.
"The mere fact that the conference creates international instruments condemning racism offers our states important instruments for the countries to develop internal policies that will enable the inclusion of vulnerable segments, be they gypsies, Africans, or any human group that is discriminated against within a country".
Meanwhile, Mozambican Deputy Foreign Minister, Hipolito Patricio, told Mozambican reporters in Durban that the Portuguese Speaking African Countries (PALOPs) had not held any meetings with Portugal to persuade it to change its position and agree to the African demand that slavery and colonialism be declared "crimes against humanity".
The main reason, said Patricio, was that "individual positions are not important in this type of conference".
On the other hand, a prominent Portuguese academic, Silas Cerqueira, criticised the Portuguese government's position in the conference.
Cerqueira, who represents the Association of Portuguese Speaking Peoples Solidarity, said Portugal was acting in a narrow-minded way.
"They are sweeping the dirt under the carpet", he said, adding that this might hurt the least developed countries.
Portugal should not follow the US and the other European powers, he stressed.
Cerqueira said he did not understand why the Portuguese government did not want to agree that slavery and colonialism are crimes against humanity.
"That's a fact, even if they refuse to acknowledge it", he said.
He declared it "shameful" that a handful of countries were holding the whole conference to ransom.

07 september 2001 16:39:00

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