For a decade, Ireland was heralded by the most ardent partisans of neoliberal capitalism as a model to be imitated. The “Celtic Tiger” had a higher growth rate than the European average. Tax rates on companies had been reduced to 12.5% and the rate actually paid by the transnational corporations that had set up business there was between 3 and 4% — a CEO’s dream! By comparison, the company tax rate is 39.5% in Japan, 39.2% in Britain, 34.4% in France and 28% in the US. Ireland’s budget deficit was nil in 2007. In this earthly paradise, everybody seemed to benefit.
Community group Save The Old Kings School (STOKS) held a protest in Parramatta in Sydney’s west on February 2 to demand the historic old Kings School site stay in public hands. Local residents, STOKS activists and members of the Greens and Socialist Alliance attended the action. The school site dates back to the early days of the colony. When the school relocated to North Parramatta in 1968, the site was sold to the NSW government. It has been unused for many years.
Seven climate activists who temporarily shut down coal loaders at Newcastle harbour in a September protest will wait another month to find out if they owe Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) $525,000 in “compensation”. The activists appeared in Newcastle Local Court for two days of hearings on January 31 and February 3. They were convicted of “remaining on enclosed lands”. Each was fined $300, plus $79 in court costs.
Thousands of West Papuans marched in the capital Jayapura on January 26, AFP said that day. Marchers rejected the area’s “special autonomy” status within Indonesia and demanded a referendum on independence from Indonesia. Protesters chanted: “Indonesia the coloniser, Indonesia the oppressor, Indonesia the robber.” The action included students from Cenderawasih University, the Indonesian Christian Students Movement and church members, Tempo Interactive said on January 26.
The Sydney Peace Foundation awarded its “gold medal for peace with justice” to WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange on February 2 in recognition of his “exceptional courage and initiative in pursuit of human rights”. This award is different from the foundation’s annual Sydney Peace Prize. The foundation has awarded the gold medal on only three previous occasions: the Dalai Lama in 1998; Nelson Mandela in 2000 and Japanese lay Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda in 2009.
The statement below was released by the Socialist Alliance on January 29. ***** The Socialist Alliance applauds the courage and tenacity of the Tunisian people, whose protests for democracy and economic and social justice have ended the 23-year rule of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The Tunisian revolution has inspired ordinary people across the Arab world. Protests have broken out in Algeria, Jordan, Yemen and — most dramatically — against the United States-backed dictatorship in Egypt.
David Kato Kisule, described by The New York Times on January 28 as the father of Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender rights movement, was murdered in his home on January 26. Kato was advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda. The killing came as increasingly violent homophobic tensions continued to escalate in the east African nation. Kato, aged 46, was bludgeoned to death with two blows to the head from a hammer in his Kampala home. The attack was carried out by one or more male attackers.
As category five tropical cyclone Yasi approached the north Queensland coast on February 3, a political cyclone was already sweeping Egypt. For days, Australian TV news was dominated by these two stories. Incredibly, in Egypt the main government TV station news failed to report the fact that millions of Egyptians had taken to the streets in a huge February 1 protest against the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship. Hiding the truth is what you’d expect from an iron-fisted dictatorship that has long sub-contracted its services to the CIA to torture victims of the “war on terror”.
The Sydney Stop the War Coalition welcomes and supports the protests for democracy and freedom in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere across the Middle East. We stand in solidarity with the Egyptian masses that are struggling for their basic rights against a dictatorship that has been supported for decades by the West. We support the people's right to assemble and their freedom of speech without the threat of repression.
West Papuan refugees in Papua New Guinea have been terrorised and arrested by police, West Papua Media Alerts said on January 28. They were allegedly arrested on behalf of the Indonesian military and local logging interests. Police and soldiers rounded up 79 refugees living in camps around Vanimo, on PNG’s north coast near the border with West Papua, in the early hours of January 23. The soldiers burned down at least 30 refugee houses, destroyed crops and food, and assaulted people, WPMA said. Other refugees have reportedly fled to the jungle.