“Mum’s dead”. The gloomy faced Sujendran Gunesekaram greeted me, as we met in person for the first time. His mother died of a heart attack on September 5, after suffering for three years. Sujendran is a 27-year-old Sri Lankan Tamil originally from Muttur in Trincomalee, the war-hit town in the east. He was one of 254 asylum seekers on the Australia-bound boat Jeya Lestari that moored off at the port in Merak, Indonesia in October 2009.
A common right-wing perception is that one either is, or is not, a member of David Hicks’ “cheer squad”. Chris Merritt, reviewing this book in the October 22 Australian, actually referred to a Hick’s “cheer squad”. Merritt lamented: “The whole appalling story of his treatment by the US military commission would be trotted out.” Trotted out? A clever way to admit that what Hick’s says is true, but at the same time trivialise the details. I am not sure what Hicks’ personal views have been on a number of issues, and not addressing them is perhaps a weakness of the book.
Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange have made some powerful enemies. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accused Wikileaks of putting the world in danger and Australian PM Julia Gillard has said its activities are illegal. In the US, Wikileaks has been denounced as a terrorist organisation and there have been calls for Assange to be either prosecuted, kidnapped or simply assassinated.
• The 251,287 leaked cables cover from December 28, 1966 to February 28 2010 and originate from 274 US embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions. • 15,652 are classified secret. • 101,748 are confidential. • 133,887 are unclassified. • Iraq was the most discussed country, named in 15,365 cables. • There are 8017 cables from the office of the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
• A secret, US-backed operation had started to remove enriched uranium spent fuel from a Pakistani nuclear reactor research facility. • The US, Israel and several Middle East countries collaborated to isolate and threaten Iran, and several European countries were revealed to be holding US-owned nuclear weapons on their soil.
Sombat Boonngamanong is a long-time NGO activist in Thailand and has been of great help to renewing public Red Shirt activity following the bloody April-May military crackdown. Lee Yu Kyung spoke to him about the prospects for the democracy movement in Thailand. * * *
Irish socialist republican party eirigi chairperson Brian Leeson has labelled the Dublin government’s four-year fiscal adjustment plan “a criminal charter for the wrecking of working class communities”. Among the measures contained within the plan are: • A €2.8 billion cut in the social welfare budget. • The gradual increase of the pension age to 68 by 2028 and the reduction of the pension rate for retired public sector workers. • The reduction of the minimum wage to €7.65 an hour. • The raising of university registration fees to €2000.
Irish election officials said on November 26 that Sinn Fein candidate Pearse Doherty had won a long-awaited by-election in Donegal with an overwhelming 40% of the vote. The election was blocked for months before it was forced on Prime Minister Brian Cowen by the Irish courts. Cowen faces a struggle to win votes on raising taxes and cutting spending when the 2011 budget is unveiled in parliament on December 7.
The Socialist Alliance’s Socialist Ideas Conference on November 20 featured informative presentations and spirited discussion. It reviewed the political situation in Australia and globally. One of the speakers was Greens MLC Mark Parnell. The most animated discussion was about the Greens' political perspectives and relation to community campaigns and grassroots activism. This followed an online debate before the event, about whether a Greens parliamentarian — particularly from the right of the party — should have been invited to speak at a conference promoting socialist ideas.
The crackdown by Moroccan occupation forces on the protest camp at Gdeim Izik on November 8 may have brought more attention to the plight of Western Sahara than was intended. The 20,000-strong camp at Gdeim Izik, 15 km from the Western Saharan capital, El Aaiun, was established on October 9 to protest against the discrimination and oppression experienced by Saharawi people living under Moroccan occupation.