Nine refugees held in the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin staged a protest on top of a building in the centre’s compound on March 15 after they witnessed Serco guards assault another detainee. The refugees — who are Rohingya people, an ethnic minority in western Burma — told refugee advocate Carl O’Connor on March 16 that the protest was sparked by a physical assault on another Rohingya detainee. “One man was refused rice in the mess room,” the refugees said. “Out of frustration he broke a glass. He was then chased down and tried to escape from two Serco guards.
As the United States and Britain look for an excuse to invade another oil-rich Arab country, the hypocrisy is familiar. Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is “delusional” and “blood-drenched”, while the authors of an invasion that killed a million Iraqis, who have kidnapped and tortured in our name, are entirely sane, never blood-drenched and once again the arbiters of “stability”. But something has changed. Reality is no longer what the powerful say it is. Of all the spectacular revolts across the world, the most exciting is the insurrection of knowledge sparked by WikiLeaks.
Emboldened by the successes of Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in Libya, a number of Arab regimes have escalated crackdowns on pro-democracy protests while the world’s media was focused on the earthquake disaster in Japan. With the exceptions of Libya and Iran, the governments brutally cracking down on their citizens have received minimal criticism from the West. Calls for “restraint on both sides” obscure the fact that it is governments armed with weapons made in the West ruthlessly attacking mostly unarmed people.
Thousands of people packed into Sydney’s Town Hall on March 16 to hear journalist John Pilger, independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Julian Burnside QC speak out in support of WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange. Assange fears he may be extradited to the US and face Guantanamo Bay-style incarceration for publishing leaked US embassy cables. Sydney Peace Foundation chairperson Mary Kostakidis presented the forum. She asked the audience to send a message to politicians in Canberra saying, “Hillary Clinton says WikiLeaks is a danger to the world … what do all of you think?”
“Pakistan has demanded an apology and explanation from the United States over a drone strike in a tribal region, which officials said killed 35 people,” ABC.net.au said on March 18. It said it was the seventh US drone strike in nine days. The article said it was the most lethal drone strike North Waziristan region since the US military escalated its bombing of Pakistani areas near the Afghan border in 2008. A Pakistani foreign ministry spokesperson Tehmina Janjua said: “The government of Pakistan strongly condemns the drone strike which has resulted in a large number of casualties …
About 300 refugees at the maximum security Red Compound in Christmas Island’s detention centre were fired on with tear gas and modified shotgun rounds during protests over the weekend of March 12-13. One man was hospitalised with a broken leg. The incident prompted outrage from refugee advocates over the government’s use of force against people seeking Australia’s protection. See also: Refugee uprising caused by inhumane treatment
Facing public anger and concern over the nuclear meltdown unfolding in Japan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced temporary shutdown of several nuclear reactors. On March 12, more than 60,000 anti-nuclear protesters in the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg formed a 45 kilometre human chain from Stuttgart to the Neckarwestheim 1 nuclear plant. Smaller protests took place in more than 450 towns and cities across Germany, anti-nuclear organisation Irradiated said. More protests are planned for March 26.
Socialist Alliance candidate for the NSW seat of Parramatta Duncan Roden was born in Fiji and grew up in Sydney's west. He is a member of the socialist youth organisation Resistance and is an activist with the Parramatta Climate Action Network and Westies Welcome Refugees. Roden spoke to Tamil Aruvi about his views on the Tamil people’s struggle for self-determination. The interview is republished below. *** What do you know about Sri Lanka's treatment of Tamil people?
On March 17, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) “effectively authorized the use of force in Libya”, the UN News Center said that day. “Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides for the use of force if needed,” the report said, “the Council adopted a resolution by 10 votes to zero, with five abstentions, authorizing Member States ‘to take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamhariya, including Benghazi, while excluding an occupation force.’”
After waiting many months for a decision regarding their visas, several asylum seekers held on Christmas Island received rejection letters on March 16 from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. In the early hours of the next day, between 50 and 150 asylum seekers broke through iron gates and escaped the detention centre. Though the private Serco guards immediately tried to catch the escaped detainees, they were largely unsuccessful.
Resistance supports the fight for equal marriage rights for Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) people. Resistance believes that the capitalist system has a vested interest in preventing people from uniting, and in continuing to repress queers. This oppression takes many forms, and includes laws that discriminate against LGBTIQ people. It is incredible that queer people in Australia still do not have the right to get married. This injustice has broad consequences for the whole LGBTIQ community.
While I agree with most of the sentiments expressed in Peter Boyle’s article on Libya in GLW #872, I think the Left must always be flexible and practical. Sometimes the progressive movement has to unite with people and governments we don’t often agree with out of necessity and momentarily shared aims, such as in World War Two and East Timor.
Six activists arrested in Harare, along with 39 others, were finally granted bail on March 16 after a month in jail. The activists were arrested for attending a video screening of footage from the people’s uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. However, the six need to raise US$12,000 to pay their bail — far more than they can afford. An appeal is being launched internationally to raise the funds needed to pay the activists’ bail (see below for details). The bail conditions require the six to surrender passports and travelling documents. They must report three times a week to the police.
On March 13, more than 100 people attended the first organising meeting of Stop CSG Illawarra, a residents’ group campaigning for a moratorium on coal seam gas mining (CSG). Concerned locals decided to establish the group a week earlier at a screening of Gasland, an Oscar-nominated film about coal seam gas mining in the United States. Fifteen CSG wells were recently approved for development in the northern Illawarra region under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.
I am sure we all shared similar reactions to last week’s earthquake-tsunami tragedy in Japan. First, we blinked at reports of a big earthquake. Perhaps for a moment our response was dulled —worn down by the string of recent disasters: the Christchurch earthquake, the Queensland floods and cyclones. Anyway, this was Japan, a rich country and probably the most earthquake-prepared nation in the world.
The government of Bahrain unleashed a brutal crackdown and invited in foreign troops on March 14 in an attempt to end pro-democracy protests that have lasted for more than a month. One thousand troops from Saudi Arabia and 500 police from the United Arab Emirates have entered Bahrain, ABC’s Lateline said on March 15. The Bahraini government declared a three-month long “state of emergency” on March 15, the Washington Post said that day. A government statement said that “the nation’s armed forces chief is authorised to take all measures to stamp out protests”.