Friday, February 27, 2015

Tribute to Faith Bandler by Patrick Dodson, Yawuru elder from Broome, WA on the occasion of her State Funeral.

In his inaugural address in Washington in 2008, the first American person of colour to assume the mantle of President of the United States, Barack Obama, challenged those who: ‘questioned the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans’. He challenged his countrymen and women to rise above mediocrity and imagine a world that was better for the accepting of the need for something better.
Well perhaps that newly elected leader of the United States had taken his cue from this beautiful Lady of diminutive stature who yet possessed the courage, dignity and vision equal to any of the giants of Australian history.
The scale of ambition that this dear Lady set for this nation half a century ago was to take the first steps towards righting the wrongs that had been a foundational flaw in the crafting of our Constitution sixty years previously – that most unacceptable of all exclusions that denied the humanity of those Australians on whose lands and seas the new nation of Australia had been constructed.
The story of the achievement of the 1967 Referendum will no doubt be recalled and recognized on many occasions today and that is a good and important thing to do. However the life we celebrate today was not defined solely from this one significant achievement.
Like the two other great Australians who lives we celebrated at State Memorial services in this city in past months the achievements of this lady were many and across the spectrum of the time in which she lived.
Hers was a life of activism in Australia, whether for equal wages for Aboriginal workers, the rights of those who had been stolen into slavery from the islands of her father or the recognition of Indigenous people in the Constitution of the nation. For this Lady injustice was not defined by colour nor creed, nor racial origin. Injustice for her was simply unacceptable and when identified could not be tolerated or left in place to fester and corrupt the soul of the nation.
Her activism was strategic and relied on building alliances and supporters through the strength of her personality and the belief that she had in the rightness of her cause.
We met at her home in Sydney in early 1996 when I had gone to speak to her about playing a role in the Reconciliation Convention that was to be held in Melbourne the following year.
She and Hans were the most gracious of hosts and the afternoon and early evening were spent, not reminiscing about 1967 or even of our plans for the Melbourne Convention but the work that that was still required on so many fronts that when resolved would ultimately lead to a more just and equitable Australia which in her mind was a work in progress with much work still to be done. We left that evening with her acquiescence to participate in Melbourne but with instructions for us on other causes and matters of injustice that required our attention and resources.
Having agreed to participate in Melbourne she immediately assumed control of that part of the weeks planned events and the Reconciliation Council found itself with a branch in French’s Forrest.
The recognition of this dear Lady and her team who were recognized at the Convention the following year was the highlight of the week’s celebrations and it was evident from the deference that was paid to her by her fellow workers and partners from the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) that the dear Lady was still the General Secretary and still in charge.
But the lesson for us all in the life of this National Treasure is that injustice is not situational, nor finite. Our responsibility to confront injustice wherever it exists and to seek immediate remedy and restitution has no finishing line. The fight against injustice is a race never completed and there is no pretence that will allow us to ignore its reality.
This dear Lady was confronted with the reality of injustice from the day of her birth and fought against its tide for her entire life.
Her message of justice and humanity will not disappear with her passing into the spirit of the land and waters of her country where she travels today but will have its echo in hearts of future generations.
Patrick Dodson February 23, 2015

Predator Drones for Sale! (Human Rights, International Law Optional) byTom Engelhardt

The U.S. State Department has just announced that armed Predator and Reaper drones will be available for sale to carefully vetted and selected allies around the world. (Image: Wikimedia/with overlay)
My drone is yours, compadre! Or so Washington has now decided. The latest promise of good times in the arms trade comes from an administration that has pioneered a robotic assassination regime organized out of the White House (though credit for groundbreaking drone assassination work should go to Israel as well). Run largely by the CIA, the U.S. drone campaigns across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa have weekly taken out suspected enemies or even “targets” that exhibit (in the judgment of people thousands of miles away and from another culture) enemy-like behavior. In the process, the Bush and Obama administrations also pioneered the crossing of sovereign borders without permission for an ongoing killing process not defined as war and which, despite much bragging about “precision,” has regularly taken out ordinary civilians, including significant numbers of children. In the process, it has brought a sense of daily terror to peasant populations in the backlands of the planet. Now, Washington is ready to spread the wealth. The State Department has just announced that armed Predator and Reaper drones will be available for sale to carefully vetted and selected allies around the world. This is, of course, splendid news for U.S. arms makers in a market that, over the next decade, is expected to more than double in size from $5.2 billion to $11.6 billion. However, as the Washington Post reports, this new program will build “on the Obama administration’s update last year to rules on conventional weapons transfers, which emphasize human rights protections in decisions about arms sales.”

For such sales, Washington, as the planetary “human rights” leader, is planning to set up “proper use” or “end use” rules when it comes to assassination by drone. Here’s a typical Washington rule of the road: if you buy an armed drone from the U.S., you must agree not to use “unlawful force against... domestic populations” -- that is, you must not kill your own citizens in your own country. (Translation: Turkey could theoretically not use such drones against its Kurdish population.) Implied exception: You can target and assassinate your own citizens by drone as long as they are not within your own boundaries. This is a rule of the road that Washington has already definitively pioneered, so far killing four of its own citizens by drone in Yemen and Pakistan, which means assumedly that Turkey could indeed kill a Turkish Kurd as soon as he or she stepped across any border.

Among the things Washington has established with its presidential drone assassination forces is that you can indeed kill both the leaders and the followers of terror outfits, or simply of any organization you consider to be your enemy (while causing considerable “collateral damage”). In the process, Washington has proved one thing: that drones will drive large groups of terrorized and vengeful peasants into the arms of those same terror outfits, increasing their strength and fragmenting societies.

Now, the U.S. is preparing to “export” the drone paradigm it has spent so much time building in this young century. China and Israel have already entered the armed drone market as well. Other countries will follow. Drones will be bought in quantity. Borders will be crossed, according to the latest Washington-pioneered rules, by ever more dronified states organizing their own assassination campaigns. If the Washington model proves true, this will further fragment whole societies, create yet more religiously based extremism, and make our world an even less appetizing place. Think of this as the twenty-first-century version (now forming) of the Washington Consensus and keep it in mind as you read “The Real American Exceptionalism,” the latest piece by historian Alfred McCoy, author of Torture & Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation, on all the rules of the road Washington has so enthusiastically been writing in these years and just where they are likely to take us.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ranil Wickremesinghe said Australian prime minister Tony Abbott’s close relationship with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa was ‘a mystery’ to Sri Lankans. Photograph: Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachchi /Reuters Agence France-Presse

Australia stayed silent on alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka in exchange for cooperation in cracking down on people-smuggling, Colombo’s new prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Monday.

Wickremesinghe said former president Mahinda Rajapaksa had agreed to help stop boats carrying asylum seekers leaving for Australia if Canberra kept quiet about alleged abuses committed by the previous regime.

In an interview with the Australian newspaper, Wickremesinghe said Australian prime minister Tony Abbott’s close relationship with Rajapaksa, who was voted out of power last month, was “a mystery” to Sri Lankans.

Colombo’s new premier also said that “people connected to the previous government” had taken part in people-smuggling operations.

“It was being done by people with Rajapaksa connections, but once this deal was done between Australia and the Rajapaksa government, where you looked the other way [on human rights abuses], then the secretary of defence got the navy to patrol,” he told the broadsheet.

“You could not have got anyone out of this country without someone in the security system looking the other way, the police or the navy.”

The arrival of asylum seekers by boat is a sensitive political issue in Australia, which in 2013 started sending those picked up on boats to offshore camps on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and Nauru.

Most asylum-seeker boats that have made the precarious journey to Australia came from Indonesia, but 120 left from Sri Lanka in 2012 for what can be a voyage of up to three weeks.

Wickremesinghe said he was not against the Australian government, but urged them to learn from their experiences.

“Some other countries must also, that fully backed the Rajapaksa regime,” he told the newspaper. “When human rights were being trampled, and democracy was at bay, these countries were silent. That is an issue for Sri Lanka.”

Sri Lanka’s new government has promised a domestic probe into alleged war crimes under Rajapaksa.

The previous regime had resisted a UN inquiry into claims that up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed under Rajapaksa’s command in the final months of a war that ended in May 2009.

Ahead of travelling to Sri Lanka in 2013 for a Commonwealth summit, Abbott said he said he was “not inclined to go overseas and give other countries lectures”.

His office had no immediate comment to Wickremesinghe’s comments in the Australian.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Australia's asylum policy is 'barbaric' - priest

Mark Yapching Christianity Today February 16, 2015
A priest in Australia has spoken out against the Australian government's policy towards asylum-seekers, calling it ‘barbaric’ and a sign of the government's failure in its responsibility to provide care for children in its jurisdiction.
‘The world's most vulnerable children are being deliberately detained and harmed for seeking asylum,’ Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office Director, Fr Maurizio Pettena, told the Catholic News Agency.
‘It is with deep sadness that we read the findings of the (Australian Human Rights Commission's) report on children in detention,’ he lamented.
Fr Pettena was referring to the recently-published report by the Commission, titled ‘The Forgotten Children,’ that reviewed the conditions of child asylum-seekers who were detained for 15 months in detention camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea……….
The priest said that the policy was a clear violation of children's rights under the Convention for the Rights of Children and urged the government to examine its policy and release the 800 children currently in detention.
‘All eyes are now on Australia, to see how we as a nation respond to this inquiry,’ the priest said.
Read more

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

United Nations group defends Gillian Triggs following Abbott government attacks

Sarah Whyte The Age February 17, 2015
Immigration correspondent

The UN's working group on arbitrary detention has called on ‘national authorities’ to respect the role and ‘high reputation’ of Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs. Photo: Daniel Munoz
The United Nations has rushed to the defence of Gillian Triggs, urging the federal government to ‘respect the rule’ of law in the protection of human rights and the Australian Human Rights Commission president's ‘high reputation’.
The UN's working group on arbitrary detention has commended the work by the commission in its latest report, saying it considers the commission's statements on international law and human rights as ‘highly authoritative and their findings reliable’.
It comes as Professor Triggs was heavily criticised by the Abbott government last week for its inquiry into children in immigration detention. Prime Minister Tony Abbott accused the commission of orchestrating a ‘transparent stitch-up’ by releasing its report while the Coalition government was in power………..
Read more

Monday, February 16, 2015

Why Muslim lives don't matter

In Chapel Hill shootings, Muslim identity eclipsed the three victims' American-ness.
Nadia El-Zein Tonova and Khaled A Beydoun Al Jazeera February 12, 2015

An Arab and Muslim culprit and white victims would have spurred immediate media attention.
Muslims identity trumped, and very likely for Hicks, eclipsed the three victims' American-ness.
Irrespective of what rallying cries, signs or adapted hashtags proclaim, Muslim lives in America don't matter. The aftermath of the murder of the three American students in Chapel Hill, and the broader context that spurred it, reconfirms this brutal truth.
The three victims - Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were killed at approximately 5:11pm on Tuesday. The identity of the killer, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was revealed roughly seven hours later.
Despite the release of these facts, and probative evidence that the executions were likely a hate crime, national media outlets remained silent. History affirms that a reversal of racial and religious identities - an Arab and Muslim culprit and white victims - would have spurred immediate media attention, on a national and global scale. However, given that Barakat and the Abu-Salha sisters were Arab and Muslim, the media lagged to cover the story.
In addition to media devaluation of Muslim lives, state-sponsored government policies targeting Muslim Americans affirm the conflation of Muslim identity with a terrorist threat. Institutional policy, in the form of state surveillance, profiling and counter-radicalisations programming, tie Muslim identity to suspicion and subversion, which emboldens the hate-fuelled violence inflicted by private citizens, like Hicks……….
Neither citizenship nor conventional measures of American achievements insulated the victims from hate. They were Muslims. That marker mattered most. Muslim identity trumped, and very likely for Hicks, eclipsed the three victims' American-ness.
Their religion mattered most for US media outlets as well, who lagged to cover the story ... leaving Muslims to wonder: if the victims were white and non-Muslims, and the culprit Muslim, would mainstream media outlets be so slow to respond and report?
Their religion mattered most for US media outlets as well, who lagged to cover the story……….
Read more

Saturday, February 14, 2015

It's been 10 years, how do we still have children in detention?

Madeline Gleeson Sydney Morning Herald February 12, 2015 Comments 86
Children in detention self-harming 'at high rates'
The Australian Humans Rights Commission releases its Children in Immigration Detention Report with shocking details about the mental health impacts and cases of assault against children in detention centres.
‘Australians don't need a team of experts or dramatic media stories to convince them that detention centres are no place for children to grow up.’ These words are from the introduction to the Australian Human Rights Commission's report into children in immigration detention – 10 years ago.
When it comes to the treatment of children fleeing persecution and torture, we are stuck in time. On Wednesday the commission's new report, aptly titled The Forgotten Children, was made public. It provides a sobering account of how little the protection of asylum-seeker children has improved in the past decade, and the impacts of prolonged detention on their mental and physical health.
[The report] cannot explain why Australia deteriorated from the position of 2005 to today………

A drawing by a child in detention on Christmas Island.
Adults and children are forcibly removed to small Pacific islands and detained in inhumane conditions, just as they were at the time of the last report.
Children continue to suffer a catalogue of abuses – physical, psychological, and sexual – while in the care of Australian authorities. Detained children are 17 times more likely to require hospital-based outpatient psychiatric treatment than children in the Australian community.
These findings beg the question, how did we end up back here again?...............
The meticulously researched and substantiated result of these investigations provides ordinary Australians with a rare opportunity to hear directly from the children in our care.
Immigration is a notoriously controversial issue. But surely as a society, regardless of the different opinions on refugee policy, we can reach agreement on at least one point: a better balance could be struck between the strategic objectives of immigration control and the protection of vulnerable children.
‘Let no child who arrives in Australia ever suffer under this system again,’ said the commission in 2004.
‘It is imperative that Australian governments never again use the lives of children to achieve political or strategic advantage,’ it says again now.
Will we finally listen? Or will we be right back here again in 2024.
Madeline Gleeson is a research associate at the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law.
Read more

Thursday, February 12, 2015

We must keep striving to close the gap in Indigenous health

Mick Gooda and Kirstie Parker The Age February 11, 2015

Tony Abbott meets with children from the Gunyangara community during a visit to North East Arnhem Land last year. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
‘Just in the last week, three of my closest friends and a relative have been diagnosed with cancer. This is not an uncommon story, to be – as a community – constantly in grief, loss and trauma.’
These words, from Janine Mohamed, chief executive of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives, will be familiar to our communities across Australia.
Given the health sector is the largest employer of Indigenous people, [investing in Aboriginal medical services] also aligns with one of the stated Indigenous affairs priorities of the Australian government – of getting adults to work.
As will her realisation, during primary school, that the Australia she experienced was very different to that experienced by other Australians. There often was not enough food in the house, and her constant trips to the doctor, accompanying her mother with schizophrenia, meant she missed a lot of school.
When the Prime Minister delivers the annual address on progress on closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage in Parliament on Wednesday, we will be reminded that these experiences are woven into the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – but they need not be………
There was an overwhelming sense of the unfairness of this - Australia is a wealthy country; equal access to healthcare is a basic human right, and we should all expect it.
Since then, more than 200,000 Australians have pledged their support to ending this national disgrace, and the Prime Minister reports every year at this time on progress against a number of targets.
So, how are we doing? In our own report, we note that the target to halve mortality for under-fives by 2018 is on track to be met. Smoking rates are slowly going down, which then improves the likelihood of related diseases – lung cancer, heart disease – also lessening.
But closing the life expectancy target remains a harder job……….
…………Evidence shows Aboriginal community controlled health services controlled by the Aboriginal community are outperforming others in the detection and treatment of health issues.
This is because they know that everything is connected……….
Mick Gooda, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, and Kirstie Parker, the co-chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, are co-chairs of the Close the Gap campaign.
Read more

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Humanizing and Glorifying a Mass Murderer for the Empire

Larry Everest Revolution Newspaper | February 2, 2015
I saw Clint Eastwood’s movie American Sniper the other night. It is the story of U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, based on his autobiography. Kyle fought in Iraq between 2004 and 2009 when the U.S. was occupying the country. (In February 2013, Kyle was killed at a gun range by another former soldier, reportedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).)
American Sniper has been nominated for six Oscars, including best film and best leading actor; it has broken box-office records for war movies, and it’s generating heated debate.
Many who are praising the film say the movie is about him, not about the politics of the Iraq war………
This is a profoundly reactionary movie. American Sniper humanizes and glorifies Chris Kyle, an unrepentant Christian fundamentalist mass murderer who killed 160 Iraqis (supposedly the most ‘kills’ by any U.S. soldier in history). Meanwhile, the movie demonizes and dehumanizes every single Iraqi (with the possible exception of one family), portraying them as evil terrorists and ‘savages’ who deserve to die.
By telling this story through Kyle’s eyes and purported experience (and prettifying that story), American Sniper weaves a fable about the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its role in the world: America is a force for good. Whatever its mistakes, the U.S. sends its military to places like Iraq to try to protect the innocent and destroy evil. It promotes the outlook that only America and American lives count and anything goes to ‘defend’ them. This is the big lie on the big screen……….
The theme that Kyle and the U.S. military are ‘sheep dogs’ in the world runs throughout the whole movie. But sorry—the U.S. and its military aren’t sheep and they aren’t sheep dogs. They are, as Malcolm X put it, like ‘bloody-jawed wolves,’ with the blood of the people of the world dripping from their fangs……….
American Sniper is an exercise in training people to see the world through the eyes of the empire…….Read More