not just ENI ordinary leader

kudos to Migrante International and the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) for spearheading the very successful and recently-concluded International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) last October 28-30! other co-sponsors of the IAMR were Bayan Philippines, Ibon Foundation, CARAM-Asia and the Asia-Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM).

the IAMR was/is migrants of different nationalities from all over the globe’s response to the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Developent (GFMD) which was held here in Manila, Philippines. the IAMR criticized the GFMD for being an elitist, sham and anti-migrant assembly meant to perpetuate the greater commodification of migrants worldwide. it failed to tackle the fundamental problems and issues concerning the global phenomenon of forced migration and instead, aimed solely to consolidate and legitimize attacks on migrants’ rights and welfare. adding insult to injury, not one genuine migrant organization or representative was invited to the GFMD — it consisted mainly of statesmen, big businesses and organizations pretending to be representative of migrants.

while in contrast, more than 180 migrant organizations from different regions around the world — asia pacific, latin america, north america, canada, africa, australia, europe and the US — attended the IAMR, mainly from organizations under the banner of the IMA. (it was therefore not surprising when, in the middle of the GFMD, some migrant advocate organizations under the equally-sham pseudo-progressive so-called PGA [People’s Global Action], which opted to attend the GFMD, walked out of the forum and proceeded to the IAMR. we were able to interview some of them and they said that they felt ‘used and sold-out by the PGA’ and that they were disillusioned because their demands were not presented at the GFMD as promised. the PGA consists of organizations such as akbayan, focus on the global south, sanlakas, salag/bmp, among others.

more importantly, it also came to our knowledge that in the midst of the whole campaign, organizations that attended the PGA became disgruntled when sponsors themselves disagreed as to their official stand on the GFMD per se. some later on questioned the PGA’s viewpoint of ‘maximizing the GFMD’ when it was later on becoming clear what the GFMD really stood for. those who walked out later on joined the IAMR-led Migrants Speak Out protest rally and cultural program. [note: so sorry but definitely no link to the PGA in this blog post.])

IMA is an alliance of more than 112 migrant organizations worldwide. its founding and incumbent chairperson is Indonesian domestic helper Eni Lestari.

i feel very honored to have met someone like Eni when i was asked to help out with the IAMR media team. at first glance, one could easily mistake Eni for a Filipina. she is a petite, brown-skinned girl who speaks very good Tagalog from years of working in the Mission for Filipino Migrant Workers in Hong Kong, where she sought shelter after escaping from her abusive employer. read more about Eni’s admirable life and struggle here.

Eni never fails to attest that she was inspired by Filipinos and that the Filipino migrant organization in Hong Kong prompted her to start organizing Indonesians. Indonesians, only seconded by Filipinos, are the fastest-growing migrant population in Hong Kong.

i admire Eni for her passion and untiring commitment not only to the world migrant movement but also to the anti-imperialist cause. she is very articulate in her fiery speeches, attributing the global phenomenon of forced migration to the crisis of neo-liberal globalization and conveying the message that only through the collective struggle of peoples worldwide can forced migration, poverty and underdevelopment be resolved. for Eni, the struggles and issues of migrants are not isolated from the struggle of peoples fighting for national liberation and against imperialism.

i have witnessed first-hand how Eni wowed fellow Filipinos and foreign journalists in her interviews. one local reporter commented before an interview, ‘are you sure she’s 33 years old? she looks awfully young. can she deliver good soundbytes?‘, to which i only smiled in reply. the reporter, also a good friend, proceeded to interview Eni and afterwards sheepishly told me, ‘i take that back.’

such is Eni’s charm. she has an unassuming image but can unleash the sharpest statements against what she and migrants worldwide consider their biggest enemies — in this case, the GFMD, negligent governments and imperialism in general.

Eni is also very jologs (hehe) and happy-go-lucky. work means work, but she would always be ready to share a sweet smile or a reassuring hug especially during the most hectic days in the IAMR campaign. this is a side of her that easily endeared her to us.

at the closing program of the IAMR, Eni broke down when she asked for a moment of silence for all migrants who have died, are presently in death row or still suffering abuse and exploitation. that moment, for me, was not a sign of weakness on Eni’s part, but more so of incredible strength. empathy for her fellow migrants sprung from Eni’s having been subjected to same conditions, which she valiantly fought and won.

truly, there can be no tyrants where there are no slaves.

kudos also to the Asia-Pacific Association of Youth and Students (ASA), of which my organization CEGP (College Editors Guild of the Philippines) is a member, for successfully holding its 3rd congress.

long live international solidarity! ###

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