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Many people in Aceh remain traumatised two years after a peace deal ended almost three decades of war. If left untreated this could trigger violence, according to a recent report by the International Organisation for Migration, the Indonesian government and the Harvard Medical School. Some 85% of nearly 2000 people interviewed were still plagued by fears and deep insecurity. The report said 35% of people interviewed suffered depression, 10% post-traumatic stress and 39% anxiety. Almost three-quarters said they had been exposed to combat, with 28% reporting they had suffered beatings and 38% that they had lost a friend or a relative in the conflict. “These memories are alive in the community, and they have the tremendous power to reproduce that violence”, said Harvard’s Byron Good. Limited resources remain a major obstacle for those requiring treatment, with most aid being dedicated to tsunami recovery and little to post-conflict rehabilitation.
Socialist Worker (SW-NZ), an organisation of revolutionary socialists in New Zealand, has sparked a new round of debate among socialists internationally over how to understand and relate to the socialist revolution in Venezuela, led by the government of President Hugo Chavez. On May 1 SW-NZ issued a statement arguing the Venezuela’s revolution is of “epochal significance”.
More than 3 million people in Vietnam are estimated to be still suffering from the devastating health effects of Agent Orange, a herbicide that the US used extensively during the Vietnam War. In 2004, these victims sued nearly 40 US chemical companies for their role in supplying the deadly chemicals, but the case was rejected by a US court. An oral presentation of the appeal by the Vietnamese victims started on June 18 in New York City. US veterans held a vigil in San Francisco on June 19 in support of the appeal. On June 15, on conclusion of a visit to Vietnam, Ricardo Alarcon, the president of Cuba’s parliament, also expressed his support for the Agent Orange victims’ appeal case.
Federal education minister Julie Bishop has announced a tender process to trial performance-based pay in schools. Australian Education Union (AEU) federal president Pat Byrne described the scheme as “cash-for-grades”, and called for more federal funding for state education.
Since the Australian government’s decision to declare a “war on terror” in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the US cities of New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, federal parliament has enacted no less than 26 pieces of legislation that form so-called anti-terror laws. The justifications for the laws ignore that acts such as murder, hijacking and blowing things up have never been legal. The laws’ real purpose is to criminalise political dissent and to create the impression of a “terrorist threat” to justify military aggression overseas.
In an effort to be reelected for a fifth term PM John Howard is trying to convince workers that this is as good as it gets. Looking at his favorite figures, we might be forgiven for thinking he’s right. In May, unemployment was at a historic low of 4.2% and the economy was growing at an annual rate of 3.8%. Employment grew by 39,400 that month while unemployment fell by 5500. However, these figures hide the reality that the benefits of the boom have been very unevenly shared.
On June 20, 30 people attended a public forum to launch a campaign for an August 12 national day of action for same-sex marriage rights. The NDA is being built around three slogans: “Repeal the ban on same-sex marriage”, “Give us civil unions” and “Hands off same-sex adoption”, and so far, rallies are being planned in Sydney, Melbourne, Lismore and Perth.
The right to strike is always agreed in principle. “We won’t remove the right to strike”, the Work Choices ads said. Employers agree — subject to restrictions to protect their class interests. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) policy is for the workers’ right to withdraw labour without sanctions.
More than 4000 teachers, school support staff, parents and students rallied outside the South Australian parliament on June 14. The rally, called by the Australian Education Union (AEU), protested the “efficiency dividends” announced in the recent state budget, which will result in funding cuts of $50,000-$100,000 to most schools.
Prime Minister John Howard announced on June 21 a plan to take control of some 60 Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, supposedly to tackle a child sex abuse crisis in those communities. It is a plan that severely limits and in some instances eradicates the democratic and land rights of all Aboriginal people in remote NT communities.
The University of Western Sydney’s Board of Trustees has officially proposed closing UWS’s Blacktown Nirimba campus by 2009. The university administration claims that the closure is due to a decline in student numbers (not surprising since the administration has cut most degrees at the campus) and financial constraints (despite a $36 million surplus in 2006). According to a June 16 report on ABC’s Stateline, Blacktown has one of Australia’s fastest growing populations.
“I’m taking control”, said Johnny Howard, with a contrived quiver of righteousness in his voice. His face was set into a familiar pastiche of horror and disgust at the degraded behaviour of lesser beings. He also conveyed a weariness — the weariness of shouldering the “white man’s burden”.