Tuesday, January 31, 2006

asylum seekers face death if sent back to Papua

The ABC reports "Australian refugee advocates say they are alarmed by the Indonesian Government making a direct request to Prime Minister John Howard for the return of 43 Papuans.

Indonesian President Suslio Bambang Yudhoyono has assured Mr Howard that the group will not be prosecuted if they are returned.

The asylum seekers are currently being held on Christmas Island, off the coast of Western Australia, claiming genocide at the hands of the Indonesian Government.

Rob Wesley-Smith from the group Australians for a Free West Papua says the asylum seekers should be dealt with according to Australian law.

"The people have escaped from there because their lives are at risk," he said.

"Their fathers have been killed, one of them was in jail for a number of years himself, and this is the reality of the situation in West Papua - so no way should they go back - they'd be killed."

Mr Wesley-Smith says they seem to have valid claims for refugee status.

"There's evidence that some have been mistreated and tortured and they're a cohesive group and strongly politically motivated, and that there is no way that they would be seen as a group to be sent back - that that's just a preliminary assessment," he said."

This will be another test of decency for the Howard government, but with the polls in their favour don't be surprised if the geopolitical expediency card gets played again. After all, in this country we tell melanesians what to do, not the other way round...and don't mention the war!

as PM's polls go up again (ain't it great to be an Australian) another antidote to depression

Petty in The Age

Saturday, January 28, 2006

For Australia, freedom from execution should not be negotiable

To its great credit The Age continues to lobby for changes to our government's approach to the imposition of the death penalty by neighbouring countries. However, the pivotal role of the AFP in the arrests of the Bali nine in a death penalty jurisdiction indicates the Howard government will sacrifice Australian lives in the name of expedient bilateral gains. As The Age put it:

"The prosecution of the alleged heroin traffickers known as the Bali nine relies heavily on information provided by the Australian Federal Police. The prosecutor has cited AFP documents in seeking the execution of the alleged ringleaders and life sentences for the other accused. The Australian Government has said it will lobby for clemency if death sentences are imposed, but a more consistent, pre-emptive approach might have averted this situation."

The only way to restore decency to government is to remove this power-drunk rabble of macho neo-cons from power at the next opportunity.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Papuan asylum-seekers to Australia moved offshore

To get them as far away as possible from support services the recent arrivals from Papua have been dumped on Christmas Island. The culture of punishment and macho brutality continues unabated in DIMIA, cheered on by a veritable who's who of Australian right wing troglodytes. It demontrates that Howard's changes to asylum seeker management trumpeted by Liberal renegades last year were merely window dressing (as I suggested at the time) and that the vile mess that is mandatory detention would continue to brutalise its victims.

Our history of appeasement toward Indonesia on the question of Papua's quest for independence is a sorry tale of aiding and abetting neo-colonialist repression. We and notable allies have had a starring role in averting our gaze from the systematic and persistent brutalisation of the Papuan people by Indonesian armed forces. Perhaps this is just another way to model good governance and citizenship for our melanesian neighbours. The hypocrisy and lies pile up like rotting carcases, to a point where one can only just manage to see the ongoing killings and wanton human rights abuses through the mist of rhetoric and mine dust.

Trading places with morality

I don't normally rate the Courier Mail as an enlightened commentator on political and civil matters, but this article by Paul Gray is worth reading. It highlights the values of a government placing trade way ahead of morality in the conduct of bilateral relations. We have elected a government that weighs trade considerations in making decisions about protecting the lives of its citizens, and invariably comes down on the side of the dollar. I think we deserve better!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Victoria's aid offer on death penalty

The Border Mail reports "Victoria has offered the states Crown Counsel to Singapore to assist a review into the countrys mandatory death penalty.

Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls yesterday said the hanging of Victorian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van in November should not be in vain, and governments should continue to pressure Singapore to abolish mandatory capital punishment for certain crimes.

The Law Society of Singapore is reviewing the laws, looking at issues as to whether capital punishment should be left to judges discretion or abolished altogether.

After completing the review it will make recommendations to the Singapore Government.

Mr Hulls said Victoria had written to the Law Society of Singapore and had offered its support or assistance."

How we wrongly locked away 60 people

The Age reports on Australians wrongly detained by Immigration authorities. The whole system is blighted by over-zealousness but this takes the cake! Up to 60 Australians have fallen victim to this culture of locking people up on suspicion. A Royal Commission is needed to clean up the nasty mess created on the watch of Ruddock and Vanstone. These politicians should be made accountable for the horrors they have unleashed, but of course this won't happen under Howard because he has his own fingerprints all over it.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The neo-liberal hijack

As I head off for a week out of town my eye caught this piece in The Age by Prof. Allan Patience. It rings the warning bells loud and clear for those of you who still don't get it that our current government is governing for itself and a very narrow consitutency of vested interests.

An excerpt follows:

"Right-Wing forays into the intellectual arena of Australian politics are becoming particularly strident and nasty these days. There is little joy or generosity in the triumphalism that increasingly marks the approach of the radical right in the infamous culture wars. Their style is censorious, vindictive, and sour. They take no prisoners.

It seems that all critics of the Government, whatever their stripe, are now branded "Howard-haters" despite legitimate concerns about Government policies on Iraq, the US alliance, Asia, asylum seekers, Aborigines, industrial relations, voluntary student unionism, welfare, education, infrastructure decay and taxation. Meanwhile, the policy analyses from the pens of some senior commentators remain transfixed by a strangely stagnant realism and old-fashioned positivism. They are often intellectually out of date.

Is this because the media protagonists on the right are realising that the only roles they will ever be allowed to play will be as handmaidens to a power elite that is contemptuous of all men and women of ideas, no matter where they sit on the political spectrum? Can they ever be really satisfied to play the role of intellectual eunuchs in the neo-liberal harem that now runs the Liberal Party? They don't have much choice because the party long ago abandoned any pretence at real conservatism.

Indeed, one of the most egregious and frequent errors that the radical right now makes is to bestow the title of conservative on John Howard, on his Government, and upon themselves. Columnist after columnist of late has been crowing about the "conservative" successes of the Howard decade. Yet few of the alleged achievements, and even fewer of the columnists, appear to be in the slightest bit conservative. Overwhelmingly, they are neo-liberal.

Within English political history, conservatism is a philosophical tradition stretching back at least to 18th-century Irish Catholic philosopher and MP Edmund Burke. Other savants in this honourable line include poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and, more recently, late political theorist Michael Oakeshott. Malcolm Fraser is an Australian heir to this British tradition.

Real conservatives know where they come from. They are deeply respectful of history. They admire the authenticity of different cultures. They are unruffled by human differences and eccentricities. They know the intrinsic value of learning and scholarship.

They may be affluent but they don't flaunt their affluence to the world. They much prefer restraint to extravagance, tolerance to bigotry, dignified subtlety to showing off. They know that affluence brings obligations, to others and to the community. Some of the greatest philanthropists are (or were) genuine conservatives."

Van Nguyen execution prompts Singapore's Law Society to give death penalty a fair airing

Channel NewsAsia reports an "eight-man Law Society committee - comprising lawyers, a law academic and a former judicial commissioner - will study judicial and death penalty systems in countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong and India and compare it with Singapore's...Admitting that the review had something to do with the saga involving executed Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van, Mr Jeyaretnam said the society had received a "flurry" of letters from foreign bar associations asking for its views on the death penalty.

The Singapore law profession has mixed views on the death penalty, he said, but the society wanted to see whether it had a "collective view" or if it could "develop" one.

Other than conducting surveys within the law profession, the committee will also hear views from people who are against the death penalty on such grounds as religion, said Mr Jeyaretnam."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

New Jersey lawmakers first to pass death-penalty moratorium

Various media reports yesterday confirmed New Jersey lawmakers have suspended the death penalty, legislating the first state moratorium since the U.S. Supreme Court reintroduced capital punishment in 1976.

A special commission will now make a sweeping review of the use of executions in New Jersey, including whether they are applied fairly and without discrimination and whether 'the risk of an irreversible mistake is acceptable.'

This is a positive sign that law makers are reviewing these barbaric laws that fly in the face of human rights conventions adopted worldwide. If the punishment meted out to those found guilty of crimes is an indicator of 'civilisation' there is a clear message for those jurisdictions that continue to apply the death penalty. State sanctioned murder is an appalling concept, particularly when the state (as it so often does) gets it wrong.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

ode to Baxter (and inmates)

This poem caught my eye:

O Baxter

What ails you to blight the landscape fair?
Like a thorn in the desert festering away
Parched of hope in the red-baked soil
Breaking the spirit in hopeless despair
Disallowing that human touch
With your steely surrounds and voltage scare.

Who cast you to hold so tight?
To weaken that grip
In your fearsome might
Of holding to life and what is so dear
Ignoring those pleas in captivity
And slamming the door on sanity fair.

How depressing your compounds
With nothing to see
Not even the hills or saltbush to view
Only the sky with its blue hazy stare
Frustrating the eyes in disharmony
What boredom you bring for those living there.

Your solitary cell depresses e’en more
With nothing to do
Devoid of a touch or voice to warm
Only the walls so blank and so bare
Whittling away that vestige of hope
Closing the door on freedom to spare.

How could your fortress be so cruel?
Torturing the mind in mindless form
Causing to weep on foreign shores
And wallow in a pit of despair
Breaking the spirit and will to live
Smiling upon that suffering there.

What mind could form you in this barren land?
So heartless and godless and free from sight
Wrought your steel hands of vengeance out
To freedom deny such richness share
Blocking the way for desperate care
Counting not cost for those trapped there.

Tom Mann

(Former teacher at Woomera detention centre and author of Desert Sorrow: asylum seekers at Woomera)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

If You Think Domestic Spying Is Bad, Try Ethnic Cleansing in Australia

A view from America. This blogger gets the picture, and the comments are interesting. Following is an excerpt:

"Despite Australia's long history of multiculturalism -- like America, it's a melting pot, albeit a smaller one -- racism is alive and well. This is partly because the Australian public, in particular the white majority, is insufficiently informed -- some might say deliberately kept in the dark -- to be able to discern the difference between Muslims and potential terrorists. Between Al Quaida and Islam. Or between terrorism and sedition, a word many Australians have never even heard of. Language has been calculatingly chosen by the government -- "illegal immigrants," for example, versus "asylum seekers" -- to intentionally foster misunderstanding and feed racial prejudice. Howard is now harvesting the fruits of his labor to hasten the passing of punitive anti-terrorism legislation that authorizes "control orders" such as house arrest, preventative detention for 14 days, and electronic tracking devices attached to suspects. Similarly draconian anti-sedition legislation is proposed. So much for the protection of civil liberties and freedom of expression. This is Australia's version of the Patriot Act."

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Villawood staff accused of thuggery

ABC reports "alarming new allegations have emerged from the Villawood detention centre of intimidation and violence against detainees.

Dozens of asylum seekers have joined in accusing some staff members of behaving like thugs, taking bribes and sanctioning criminal activity.

The claims are the latest in a string of complaints against contractors employed by the Department of Immigration.

Sixty-two Villawood detainees have signed a letter alleging corruption and intimidation on the part of a staff member employed by Global Solutions Limited."

The nightmare of mandatory detention continues because not enough people in this country are prepared to stand up and shout that this human rights abuse must end. Until we demand all human beings are given the same basic rights we claim for ourselves we are demeaned and diminished. Keeping people in captivity like animals shames us all, because we sit back and tolerate it.

Rule by law in China - executions galore!

The New York Times reports "China executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined. By some estimates, the number of executions is more than 10,000 a year. The government's relentless death penalty machine has long been its harshest tool for maintaining political control and curbing crime and corruption.

But it has now become a glaring uncertainty about China's commitment to the rule of law. There is widespread suspicion, even within the government, that too many innocent people are sentenced to death. This year, a raft of cases came to light in which wrongful convictions had led to death sentences, or, in one well-publicized case, the execution of an innocent man.

Reforming capital punishment has become a priority within the Communist Party-controlled legal system, partly because of international pressure to reduce abuses. Within the party-run legislative system, there is a broader debate about how to improve criminal law.

But achieving those reforms is hardly certain. Hard-liners are loath to restrict the power of the police and the courts to take a tough line. Death penalty reforms announced by the People's Supreme Court - and broadly trumpeted in the state news media - are mostly just a return to the status quo of 1980."

This father's quest is a case in point.