Chris Slee

The Iran Solidarity Network (ISN) and Australia-Asia Worker Links held a meeting on May 7 to commemorate Iranian Kurdish activist Farzad Kamangar, who was executed last year.

ISN member Afshin Nikouseresht told the meeting that Kamangar was a teacher, poet, author, human rights activist and unionist. He had campaigned around environmental issues, women's rights and poverty as well as union rights.

He was arrested in 2006 and executed in 2010, accused of being a member of an armed Kurdish group — an allegation he denied.

The NATO attack on Libya was debated at a meeting sponsored by the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law in Melbourne on April 20.

Don Rothwell, a law professor at the Australian National University, argued that the intervention is consistent with the doctrine of "responsibility to protect".

This doctrine, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, endorses outside intervention to protect people from genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes carried out by their own government.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member of the Sri Lankan parliament M. A. Sumanthiran, addressed a meeting organised by the Australian Tamil Congress on March 26.

He said that even though Tamils in Sri Lanka are a nation with the right to self-determination, the formation of a separate state is not a realistic option because of the opposition of the “international community”.

Article 1 of the United Nations charter speaks of the right of self-determination of peoples. However, in the 1960s the UN General Assembly put some restrictions on this right.

Twenty people attended a meeting in Melbourne on March 23 organised by the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) in support of the family of TJ Hickey, a young Aboriginal man who died in February 2004 in the Sydney suburb of Redfern. He was impaled on a fence after being chased through the streets by a police car while riding his bicycle.

Barrister Emrys Nekvapil told the meeting the case had been taken to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) by TJ's mother Gail Hickey.

Father S.J. Emmanuel, president of the Global Tamil Forum, spoke at a Melbourne meeting of about 400 people on February 13. He said that while the civil war waged by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was over, the struggle for the rights of Tamils living in Sri Lanka continues in a new way.

The war officially ended in May 2009 with the military defeat of the LTTE by the Sri Lankan army. But the Sri Lankan government is now carrying out what Emmanuel described as a policy of "genocide", attempting to wipeout any trace of Tamil existence in Sri Lanka.

Forty people attended a meeting about the Northern Territory government's attack on bilingual education in remote Indigenous communities on November 18. The government has banned teaching in Indigenous languages during the first four hours of the school day.

The meeting began with a phone link to two people from the Yirrkala community, where the local school is defying the ban. They said teaching children in Yolngu language was vital to maintaining culture and producing better academic results.

More than 100 people attended a Brunswick candidates’ forum about planning issues on November 11. The high attendance reflected anger at the many high-rise buildings planned for the inner-Melbourne area. Six state election candidates addressed the meeting.

Socialist Alliance candidate Trent Hawkins said residents must be involved in decision-making. Planning minister Justin Madden has "called in" 230 projects so far this year, allowing him to overrule local council decisions. Hawkins said development decisions must involve the community.

On October 27 a public meeting at Brunswick Town Hall discussed "public space vs. market place".

University of Melbourne lecturer David Nichols discussed the design of modern shopping centres, which discouraged people from gathering in groups even for informal discussion.

Victorian branch secretary of the Rail Tram and Bus Union Trevor Dobbyn spoke of his experiences in the struggle for the right to march in Queensland in the 1970s — a struggle in which thousands were arrested.

About 50 people attended politics in the pub at the Queensberry hotel on October 12, to discuss the upcoming November 27 Victorian elections.

Greens candidate for Melbourne, Brian Walters, spoke about the Victorian ALP government’s record. He said the contract for the proposed desalination plant is secret, but the cost is likely to be about $18 billion.

The plant will use huge amounts of electricity and add to greenhouse pollution.

Three hundred people attended a launch of author and activist Tariq Ali's new book, From Bush to Obama — Change We Can Believe In? on October 6.

Ali said Obama’s election campaign had raised people's hopes and mobilised US youth, but people were now disillusioned and angry. He said Obama was a “master of bullshit”. Obama’s rhetoric sounded different, but fundamentally continued the policies of the Bush regime.

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