Prime minister Kevin Rudd’s announcement of the “PNG solution” — where refugees who arrive in Australia by boat will be denied resettlement and sent to Papua New Guinea — has sparked the largest refugee rights rallies in Australia since John Howard was in power, as well as opposition from within PNG itself. On August 2, 2000 students at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) held a protest against the proposed plan.
The United States government hopes that negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will reach a final agreement this year. If completed, it will create the world’s largest “free trade agreement” — with serious consequences for the hundreds of millions of people living in the affected countries. The 18th round of TPP negotiations will take place in Malaysia on July 15-25. This will be the first time Japan has taken part, joining the US, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Chile, Brunei, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam.
Greens Senator Richard Di Natale questioned foreign minister Bob Carr on June 5 during a senate hearing on human rights abuses in West Papua.
Like most sectors of society, the education system in Australia is under attack. For decades, education has been underfunded, so when Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that she intended to fund the Gonski reforms, many people were temporarily relieved. Then she said that, to pay for primary and high school education reforms, the government would cut funding to universities. Private schools won’t lose funding and, in some cases, will get more. Yet the ailing TAFE system would get nothing. So much for an education revolution.
In West Papua, May 1 holds a special significance besides being the international day marking working-class struggle. It was on May 1, 1963, that Indonesia was granted control of the western half of the New Guinea island the by the United Nations. Since then, many West Papuan independence and human rights activists have been jailed, tortured and killed for demanding real democracy and a genuine independence referendum. As thousands of people across the region prepared for May 1 demonstrations marking 50 years of brutal occupation, the Indonesian authorities launched raids on April 30.
Jailed WikiLeaks whistleblower and US soldier, Bradley Manning, was named on April 25 as the grand marshal in this year’s LGBTI Pride Parade in San Francisco. But, amid controversy and pressure, San Francisco Pride president Lisa Williams issued a statement the next day rescinding the honour. Manning was elected by former grand marshals, who form an electoral college to choose a grand marshal each year. Other grand marshals are appointed by the SF Pride board and by a community vote. Grand marshals are chosen for making significant contributions to the LGBTI community.
West Papua has been gaining international support recently, especially in its pursuit of inclusion in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), a regional intergovernmental organisation that has supported the independence movements of its members. Controversially, Indonesia, which has occupied West Papua for decades, has had observer status in MSG since 2011.
The ongoing strike at Sydney University attracted national media attention on March 26 when strike-supporting students were dragged from a lecture theatre by riot police. The students were engaged in a “roaming picket” that was disrupting one of the few remaining classes held that day when police intervened. This sparked debate as to whether student supporters used appropriate tactics to make their presence heard.
Eight Indonesian soldiers were killed on February 21 in West Papua. The attacks were claimed by the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement (TPN-OPM). The attacks came after a series of violent crackdowns by Indonesian authorities on a growing movement of peaceful protest by Papuans calling for end to Indonesian occupation and for self-determination. In the first attack, a military post in Tingginambut, Puncak Jaya, was raided. One soldier was killed and another injured.
February 23 marks the 1000th day in which alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower, 24-year-old US Army intelligence officer Bradley Manning, has been jailed by US authorities without trial. A pre-trial hearing in January in the case of Manning, concluded that his defence would be restricted to arguing motive during his trial, scheduled for June 3. Manning has been accused of leaking thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, which revealed a wide range of US war crimes, as well as evidence of corruption and lying by a range of governments.