My turn: Let's stand up together and do the right thing

Posted: Monday, March 17, 2008

It's not often that we Alaskans can be leaders on the global stage. Most of the time, we feel - no matter our political stripe - powerless on both the national and international stage. Even though our caucuses were lively and our governor is getting some press, how Alaskans vote for our nation's top spot doesn't really matter - our three puny electoral votes don't give us much political clout. We unfortunately are spectators - not meaningful participants - in our own political system.

As for international politics, if we can't impact our own government, how can our voices (as varied as they may be) be heard abroad? And these days, thanks to some, shall we say, misguided politicians, Alaska's reputation among our neighbors down south and around the world is less than stellar.

But while our national and international clout may be limited, our financial cache is famous - almost as well-known as the state's unparalleled wilderness and beauty. From jokes in a movie and on late night television to lively discussions (just try bringing up the fact that you receive money on an annual basis from interest on an oil fund at your next Outside gathering), the Alaska Permanent Fund is unique and in itself gives the state some power - the indisputable power of money.

Let's use that power to do the right thing. The permanent fund has investments in companies that are known to be funding the genocide in Darfur. To date, more than two million people have been murdered in the Darfur region of Sudan in an ethnic cleansing campaign - and the killing goes on daily. Recently, President Bush signed legislation that allows states and local governments to cut investment ties that provide vital revenue for Sudan's government. That money is in turn invested in Sudan's military, which is committing what the U.S. government has classified as "genocide."

It's very easy to shrug and say it's not our problem or ask how we can possibly help people located on the other side of the globe. But we can, without any impact to ourselves or our wallets. There is a bill in the House asking the permanent fund to divest any holdings with companies that do business with the government of Sudan. We, as Alaskans, can band together and let our elected officials in the House, Senate, and the governor herself know that we want that bill to pass as quickly as possible. To do so, you can write to your legislators and attend a rally in support of this bill at noon on Wednesday on the Capitol steps.

Together, we can make our voices heard by telling our lawmakers that we do not want to make money by investing in companies that fund the well-recorded and undeniable despair in Darfur - the permanent fund should dump those holdings and invest elsewhere.

So, this year, instead of Alaska being perceived as a joke and a disgrace (i.e. bridges to nowhere, elected and appointed officials taking bribes from oil companies, the Simpsons movie's take on the permanent fund), how about we all put aside our differences for the moment and come together on one simple thing - Alaska does not do business with companies that fund genocide.

To contact your legislators, simply visit house.legis.state.ak.us or senate.legis.state.ak.us, click on your representatives' name and send an e-mail. You can e-mail Gov. Sarah Palin by going online to gov.state.ak.us/govmail.php.

• Joan Pardes is a Juneau resident.



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