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Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Finance protesters
made their point

Bullet The issue: Protesters at the Washington, D.C., meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank tried to disrupt the proceedings.

Bullet Our view: The meetings were held with minimal interruption but the protesters succeeded in calling attention to the institutions' shortcomings.

AFTER the chaos wrought in Seattle by protesters at the World Trade Organization meeting last fall, authorities in Washington, D.C., were determined to prevent a repeat of that experience at the sessions of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. For the most part, they succeeded.

In part that was the result of better preparation. In addition, the protesters were more disciplined and less violence-prone. There was virtually none of the vandalism that marred the Seattle demonstrations.

The demonstrators did not succeed in preventing the meetings from occurring or in disrupting them to a significant degree. Certainly they did not succeed in abolishing these institutions.

They did, however, succeed in calling attention to the need for more flexibility in the demands for reforms as the price for IMF bailouts, more debt relief for poor nations and attention to the environmental effects of funded development projects.

These are hardly new issues for the IMF and World Bank. Both institutions had been moving to deal with them long before the demonstrators appeared.

At their meeting, the finance ministers took action to hasten debt relief. The World Bank's policy-making Development Committee pledged to increase the number of poor countries qualifying for debt relief from the current five to 20 by the end of the year. The committee also said it would step up the fight against the global AIDS epidemic.

The IMF and World Bank -- officially the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development -- are institutions created to promote economic stability and growth, initially in the post-World War II world. They have since proved to be of enduring value, despite their critics. Together they are the principal conduits for the transfer of money from the nations of the developed world to the poorer countries.

The IMF's role is to provide short-term credit to stabilize national economies. The World Bank provides long-term loans for economic development when governments cannot obtain funds from other sources at reasonable rates.

IMF funds have served to cushion poor countries against economic crises. The World Bank has provided funds for industrial development, education, health care and nutrition for poorer nations. In recent years, an increasing share of the money has gone for social and humanitarian needs.

This is not to say that their performance cannot be improved. It is widely accepted that the IMF attempted to impose unrealistic conditions on recipient governments during the Asian economic crisis of 1997-98.

Some World Bank-funded projects over the years have been environmentally destructive. More debt forgiveness may be appropriate -- but only if plans are instituted to correct the problems that resulted in the inability to pay.

Like the World Trade Organization, another recent target of the protesters, the two financial institutions perform essential roles in an interdependent world economy. If they were abolished, as some demonstrators demanded, they would have to be replaced.

Dana Ireland case

Bullet The issue: The last of three defendants in the Dana Ireland murder case has pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

Bullet Our view: Shawn Schweitzer's plea agreement is appropriate given his relatively passive role in the incident.

SHAWN Schweitzer's plea agreement ends prosecution in the case of Dana Ireland, who was raped and murdered on the Big Island on Christmas Eve 1991. The finality should bring some relief to the Ireland family and to authorities who struggled with the case for years before obtaining convictions of the principal assailants. Schweitzer's agreement is appropriate in view of his passive role in the incident.

Dana IrelandDana Ireland's murder was one of the more brutal in the state's history. The 23-year-old recent graduate of George Mason University in Virginia was attacked while riding her bicycle along a coastal road in Puna and left to die.

The investigation of the crime progressed little until three years after the murder when Franklin Pauline Jr., imprisoned for robbery and rape convictions, accused brothers Albert Ian and Shawn Schweitzer of the slaying, claiming that he watched. Pauline later recanted, but the confession was a major breakthrough in the probe. Authorities now believe Shawn Schweitzer was the bystander.

Pauline was convicted by a Hawaii County jury last September of murder, rape and kidnapping, and Albert Schweitzer, Shawn's brother, was convicted of the same charges by a different jury in February. Pauline was sentenced to life imprisonment. Albert Schweitzer also faces a life prison term at his sentencing.

Shawn Schweitzer, who was 16 at the time of the incident, told police he sat in the back seat of a car driven by his brother, then 20. He said his brother, at Pauline's urging, ran over Ireland with the car, and that Pauline dragged her inside. The younger Schweitzer said he saw Pauline strip and rape Ireland at another location but did not see his brother rape her. Police say a lie detector test indicated that he was telling the truth.

Facing the same charges of which the other two were convicted, Shawn Schweitzer was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, plus kidnapping. The plea agreement calls for a one-year jail sentence, but Shawn Schweitzer's 16 months already spent behind bars will allow his immediate release. He will be required to spend nearly five years of probation on the mainland.

The younger Schweitzer's crime is that he failed to alert police to Dana Ireland's assault as soon as he had the opportunity. While such negligence was inexcusable, it did not rise to the vicious level of the behavior of his brother and Pauline. The punishment for each of the three appears to fit the crime.

Dana Ireland Archive

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