The Bahrain government's attempts to use the April 22 Formula One race to portray the country as harmonious have backfired badly. The world's media were forced to focus on the ongoing protests against the ruling al-Khalifa dynasty over demands for democracy and justice for those who have suffered human rights abuses. The government marketed the race with the slogan "UniF1ed", in a brazen attempt to whitewash the protests and suggest the country had returned to normal.
The crisis embroiling the government of Papua New Guinea has taken new turns as sections of the establishment struggle for power. Public outrage has grown against new laws that undermine the country's constitution. Just days after pledging it would not use the new powers of the Judicial Conduct Act to suspend judges, the government of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill suspended Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia and Justice Nicholas Kirriwom on April 4.
The Papua New Guinean government has backed down in the face of a society-wide revolt over its new power to suspend judges. Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said the law would not be implemented until public consultations were carried out. Thousands of students from the University of PNG rallied in Port Moresby on March 23. Students said in a statement that the law undermines the constitution by removing the separation between the government and courts.
Preliminary court-martial proceedings against United States soldier Bradley Manning have shown the US government's strong desire to make an example of him. Manning is the military analyst accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables and US military reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Rather than seek to investigate the serious war crimes revealed in the leaks — and prosecute those responsible — the US government has persecuted Manning.
The latest wave of murderous Israeli air strikes on Gaza, which began on March 9, appeared aimed at raising pressure for war on Iran and undermining Palestinian group Hamas. Al Jazeera said on March 13 that 25 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli forces in the first four days of air strikes. It said 18 of the dead had been identified as resistance fighters. A Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) report on March 12 said 73 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were wounded in the strikes.
Hearings began last month into the case of five West Papuan independence leaders on trial for treason. They were arrested with hundreds of others when Indonesian troops attacked the Papuan People's Congress on October 19 last year. The conference had declared the Indonesian-occupied territory an independent state. West Papua was officially annexed by Indonesia's Suharto dictatorship in 1969 in a United Nations-supervised “act of free choice”, in which only 1022 Papuans were allowed to vote.
The release of secret emails from private intelligence company Stratfor by WikiLeaks has opened the door on the world of spying-for-profit. More than 5 million emails between Stratfor employees were stolen by hacker group Anonymous in December last year. The emails were passed on to WikiLeaks, which began releasing them on February 27.
If the uprisings of last year have proved anything, it is that progressive change is not out of reach, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. In the face of overwhelming odds, the Arab Spring has brought changes in the region that were unthinkable 18 months ago. However, it is still common for people advocating radical change to be sneered at, regarded as naive fools or dangerous loonies. But when you take an honest look at the state of the world today, it is those who think things should not change are the ones that start to look foolish or crazy.
The Occupy movement in the US may have disappeared from media headlines. But it has not disappeared from the streets of many US cities. However, dropping attendances and ongoing police repression have caused problems for the movement. Inspired by protests in the Arab world and Europe, the wave of occupations began in September last year. Thousands gathered in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street in New York to protest against the system that promotes inequality and undemocratic rule by the super-rich — the “1%”. Similar protest sites sprang up across the US and many other countries.
Truth and accuracy have never been the highest priorities for the mainstream media. But hysteria and misrepresentation of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy protest in Canberra on January 26 have been taken to an absurd level. Terms like “mob violence”, “thuggery” and “riot” have been used by journalists and politicians to describe a protest where no one was injured, no property was damaged and no one was arrested.
Deadly repression in Indonesia has refocussed attention on the role of Australian mining companies in human rights abuses in the country. People of the Paniai region in Indonesian-occupied West Papua have lived in terror since November. The Australian government-trained “anti-terrorist” unit Detachment 88 (D88) and Brimob paramilitary force launched an offensive in the area that month to eliminate fighters from the Free Papua Movement (OPM).
Tensions were high after a prominent supporter of the controversial Ramu nickel mine near Madang in Papua New Guinea died suddenly on January 3. This comes after the PNG Supreme Court rejected an appeal on December 22 against the decision to allow the Ramu mine operators to dump 100 million tonnes of toxic mine tailings into Basamuk Bay over 20 years.
Egyptians went to the polls on November 28 in the first round of parliamentary elections since dictator Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February. Large numbers of people turned out to vote despite calls from some revolutionary groups for a boycott of a process seen as a means to legitimise the rule of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). The elections were held amid ongoing protests against the military regime by thousands of pro-democracy activists in Tahrir Square in Cairo and elsewhere across the country.
A new uprising has exploded in Egypt since police attacked protesters in Tahrir Square on November 19. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Cairo and other cities to demand the end of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that has governed Egypt since dictator Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February. Dozens of people have been killed by the police and military and much larger numbers injured.
The Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad looks prepared to fight to the death in its brutal battle against pro-democracy protesters who have been calling for the downfall of the regime since March. The death toll has spiked in recent weeks. LCCSyria.org said on November 16 that 376 people had been killed since the regime agreed on November 2 to a “peace plan” drawn up by the Arab League — a group of 22 countries led by Saudi Arabia.
The role of notorious Malaysian-owned logging company Rimbunan Hijau (RH) is in the spotlight after Greenpeace activists blockaded one of its ships in Papua New Guinea on October 24. Greenpeace was supporting about 200 local landowners from West Pomio, in New Britain, who were protesting against what they say was illegal logging by RH, AAP said on October 24. Forty-thousand hectares of land was leased to RH — operating under a front company called Gilford — for 99 years for a palm oil plantation, without the consent of all landowners.