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Quincy Approves Burma Sanctions
Quincy Approves Burma Sanctions
The Patriot Ledger
October 21, 1997
QUINCY, MA - Quincy, whose forebears helped found the country and served as
foreign ministers to England and Russia, has become the first city or town
in the state to approve economic sanctions against the military regime of
With little discussion, the city council voted 7-1 last night to approve
an ordinance that prohibits future purchases or contract renewals with
companies that do business in the Southeast Asian nation, which is under
fire for human rights violation.
When Mayor James Sheets gives the law his promised signature, Quincy will
join the state Legislature and a dozen other U.S. communities with
sanctions against Burma.
Sheets and councilors said it's the first such measure the city has ever
enacted related to a foreign-policy issue.
It is not the first time, however, that public officials from Quincy have
been involved in international affairs. Native son John Adams served as
the nation's first minister to England and France before becoming the
second president of the United States. And his son, John Quincy Adams,
served as U.S. minister to the Netherlands and Russia as well as secretary
of state before his election as the nation's sixth president.
Furthermore, the author of the Burma ordinance, Councilor Paul Harold, is
one of the most widely traveled public officials in the city's modern day
history. He often lectures overseas for the U.S. Information Agency, and
once had a private meeting with Mother Teresa while traveling through Asia
for the United States. He has also been considered a possible candidate
for a diplomatic post under President Clinton.
Harold was a state senator in the 1980s when the Massachusetts legislature
was the first in the nation to pass sanctions against apartheid South
Africa. He said he decided to sponsor the Burma ordinance after the
Clinton administration supported the Massachusetts law and imposed its own
trade sanctions against Burma earlier this year, amid a dispute over
Burma's refusal to aid a U.S. effort against heroin traffic.
"That's when I felt we could make it a serious action," he said.
The Boston and Cambridge city councils, which usually lead the way on such
issues, have yet to adopt a Burma ordinance. Newton's board of aldermen
will discuss a similar ordinance tomorrow. Brookline selectmen passed one
last week, but town meeting approval is needed. A vote is scheduled for
Still, the effect of the Quincy ban may be more symbolic than real.
Atlantic Richfield and IBM are among 250 companies still active in Burma.
Quincy's ordinance won't force the city to break existing contracts with
those companies, but councilors and department heads weren't immediately
sure whether the law will actually affect any of the city's thousands of
vendor contracts, which range from oil and gas purchases for city vehicles
to paper for computer printers and copy machines.
Harold said the Quincy vote was a result of "a genuine grass-roots effort"
by Quincy residents, who collected more than 1,000 signatures for a
petition in support of the sanctions.
Helen Poland, who organized the petition, said she was surprised and
excited by the council's prompt action.
"It's really terrific to see Quincy take a stand like this," she said.
Burma native, Win Maung of Weymouth was also pleased with the council's
vote. He said the action will be noticed in his country.
"It's risky for us who still have family there," said Maung, who
immigrated to the United States three years ago and spoke in favor of the
council sanctions at a hearing two weeks ago. But, he said, "If we do not
do anything from this end, they can't do anything over there."
One two people spoke against the Quincy ordinance: Councilor Tim Cahill,
the lone no vote on the council, and Burma native Fred Chin of Boston.
Chin said he's opposed to his country's military rulers but sanctions will
only hurt his nation's impoverished residents.
Cahill said the city shouldn't be wading into foreign-policy matters.
"This was a feel-good vote," he said. "It's not an issue we're going to
solve here, and there are more sides to it than any of us understand."