Posts Tagged ‘Indonesia’

It might seem odd, Dear Reader, to campaign for convicted drug dealers to be spared from being shot to death when the world’s attention is focused on the tragedy in Nepal, where uncountable thousands have perished.

 

Myuran Sukumaran takes an art class in Kerobokan

Myuran Sukumaran takes an art class in Kerobokan

 

Except it is perfectly right to do so.

We will always be afflicted by the vagaries of the natural world. But mankind can choose how we treat one another. And the death of a single soul is as important as the communal deaths of thousands, who are, after all, individuals too, not statistics.

It is often said that “All politics is local”. But we have always preferred the notion that all politics is indivudal.

As John Donne wrote centuries ago:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

The current obduracy of the Indonesian government in the face of imploring appeals from countries the world over not to execute the “drug smugglers” currently with less than 24 hours left to live is a matter of choice. President Widodo chooses not to listen to the appeals, just as he chose, with breathtaking callousness, not even to read the individual appeals for clemency on behalf of the accused, rendering, in and of itself, the Indonesian legal system into contempt.

We have always implacably opposed the death penalty in all circumstances, all our lives, if for no other reason because of the terrible things it does to us and our society, but other reasons there are many – such as that it is frequently mistaken, frequently applied unevenly across racial groups, and frequently excessive. And a system riddled with institutional corruption, such as in Indonesia, has no place putting people to death.

And we have discussed elsewhere why these executions in particular are so terribly wrong.

So as they walk into a field to be tied to a plank and shot in their choice of a kneeling, sitting or standing position, let us once more, out of respect for those about to die, remember why this action is so wrong.

 

Andrew chan baptises a fellow prisoner inside Kerobokan jail.

Andrew chan baptises a fellow prisoner inside Kerobokan jail.

 

Chan and Sukumaran, already jailed for as long as they would serve in any civilised country, are perfect examples of the notion of prison as reform. One is now an ordained Christian minister. One is a highly accomplished painter and teacher who has earned a University degree while in jail. Both have done such good work with other prisoners in their imprisonment that the prison governor asked that they be not executed, and prisoners offered to take their place at the stake. They have asked to be reprieved so they can continue their work.

The Filipina woman slated to die claims to have known nothing of the drugs hidden in her suitcase and the prosecution failed to prove that she did.

The French man who is still slated to die (although his execution is currently suspended) was a welder who had no idea he had been working on the construction of a meth lab for just three days.

The Brazilian man who will be killed tonight is a paranoid schizophrenic who doesn’t understand what is happening to him. He walks his cell talking to the walls and “ghosts”. Two men arrested with him were freed without charge after he exonerated them.

The family of Mary Jane Veloso arrive to say goodbye forever. The effect on her sons is incomprensible.

The family of Mary Jane Veloso arrive to say goodbye forever. The effect on her sons is incomprehensible.

On their last day together, the families, friends and supporters of the eight to be shot tonight gathered together in a small outdoor courtyard. Together. Initially the guards refused to take the handcuffs off the prisoners to allow them to embrace their families for the last time. All the groups, shorn of privacy in their grief, were together. Can one even imagine the communal pain of Andrew Chan, with his family and wife of one day at his side, next to the two young sons of the young Filipina woman and her inconsolable parents, next to Myuran’s family …

To read more about the tragic case of Mary Jane Veloso click here.

Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, 51, was among the group to be put to death after losing an appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court last week. But officials told French news agency AFP Saturday that he will not be included in the batch of executions because he still has a legal appeal outstanding.

The move comes amid intense pressure from Paris on Jakarta. French President Francois Hollande had warned earlier Saturday of “consequences with France and Europe” if Atlaoui was put to death.

“We cannot accept this type of execution,” he told reporters during a visit to Azerbaijan, adding that the consequences would be of a “diplomatic” nature.

And so, back and forth, the awful slow-motion close-up circus of state murder rolls on, in its hideous rollercoaster fashion. And perhaps most frustrating of all, there is no evidence that these executions are having any effect on the prevalence of drugs in Indonesia, which is nothing like as dramatic as Presidential propaganda is saying anyway, and those caught are merely the foot-soldiers in this “war on drugs”, while the king-pins they work for – most of whom are known – walk free to enjoy the sunshine and their luxury lifestyle, protected by their ability to buy off the system.

Bottom line: this tragic farce – this excuse for law – is barbaric, and should have no place in a modern world. Anywhere in a modern world.

President Joko Widodo, playing to a domestic audience he believes will be pleased by the executions, (which is by no means certain), must never be allowed to forget his role in these judicial murders. He will be held to account. And Indonesia is about to step into a dark abyss of international condemnation from which it will not emerge while Widodo remains at its helm – actually controlled by former President Megawati Soekarnoputri, making a mockey of Indonesia’s so-called democracy.

The utter failure of his lacklustre and murderous Presidency is laid out in fine detail here.

 

Megawati - the hard woman behind the Widodo throne.

Megawati – the hard woman behind the Widodo throne.

 

“Megawati said to him at the party congress, ‘Why haven’t the executions been carried out already – you aren’t buckling to foreign pressure, are you?'” says Greg Fealy, a leading ANU scholar of Indonesia.

He continued: “The politics is that death penalty is extremely popular in Indonesia, Jokowi is slipping in the polls, he’s desperate to turn it around, and of the available issues this is the most readily available on which he’s looking strong, according to most Indonesians.”

In the meantime, Andrew and Myuran wait, comforted by their spiritual advisors, who will not only wait the last terrifying hours with them, but will witness them being killed, as well.

Sukumaran has asked long-time friend and supporter Christie Buckingham, a senior pastor from Melbourne’s Bayside Church, who has been visiting both men for years. Chan has nominated Salvation Army minister and family friend David Soper.

They, too, deserve to be remembered today. They are living their religious commitment in the most bare and painful way possible.

Respect.

Myuran Sukumaran has said he will refuse a blindfold when he dies, preferring to look his executioners in the eyes. We should all look his executioners in his eyes, on his behalf.

Now, and forever.

Death row Filipina s family begs Indonesia for her life

The family of a Filipina on death row in Indonesia made a tearful appeal for her life on Wednesday, insisting that an international drug syndicate duped the single mother of two.

Mary Jane Veloso, 30, has been in an Indonesian jail for five years after being caught at Yogyakarta airport with 2.6 kilogrammes (5.73 pounds) of heroin, and is among a batch of foreigners facing imminent execution.

But in an interview with AFP in Manila, her parents and sister said a crime syndicate involving a friend had deceived her, and she did not know the drugs had been sown into her suitcase before flying from Malaysia.

“Please don’t kill my sister. She is innocent. If you kill her, you will have blood on your hands,” Veloso’s elder sister Marites Veloso-Laurente said in a plea to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

With tears streaming down his cheeks, Veloso’s father said the syndicate that used her as an unwitting drug mule had pledged to kill all family members if they reported the racket to authorities or went to the media.

“Life’s been hard. We’ve been living in fear. My daughter’s recruiters have been threatening us – they threatened to kill us one by one,” said 59-year-old Cesar Veloso.

The family is from a poor farming town about three hours’ drive north of Manila, and Veloso had sought to provide for her two young sons by working as a maid overseas.

The single mother initially worked for nine months in Dubai in 2009 but was forced to come home after her employer tried to rape her, according to her father.

A family friend then offered Veloso work as a maid in Malaysia.

When Veloso got to Malaysia she was told the job was no longer available but there was another one in Indonesia if she flew there immediately, according to her parents.

“My sister’s a loving person, she’s so kind. But she trusts too much. We don’t engage in vices or anything illegal, no cigarettes, no alcohol,” her elder sister said.

When Veloso was arrested, her sons were aged just one and seven and they too have become victims.

“It’s as if they lost all hope… they are worried about what would happen to them if their mother never came back,” the Veloso matriarch, Celia, said as her two grandsons sat quietly next to her.

She said the eldest son, Mark Daniel Candelaria, 12, was struggling at school and may have to repeat eighth grade.

Veloso’s youngest, Mark Darren, 6, copes by singing his mother’s favourite song, a Filipino ballad called: “Just wait”, which has become an anthem of hope for the family.

Veloso’s mother, 55, insisted that if her daughter was involved in the drug trade, her family would have seen some benefits of it.

Instead, she shares a cramped brick and wood shanty with her husband and six grandchildren, including Veloso’s sons.

“We beg you, Mr Indonesian president, if my daughter was involved in drugs, we wouldn’t be this poor,” she said.

About 10 million Filipinos work overseas, with most heading abroad to escape deep poverty.

Many work in menial jobs or face dangerous work conditions, but even salaries of $300 a month are more than can be earned at home.

The government has previously warned Filipinos heading abroad about the dangers of drug traffickers trying to exploit or dupe them.

The are 125 Filipinos on death row around the world, with many of them convicted of drug trafficking, Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of overseas workers’ rights group Migrante, told AFP.

The Indonesian Supreme Court last week denied Veloso’s request to review her conviction.

The Philippine government said Wednesday it would file a second appeal.

Veloso’s parents and sons also visited the Indonesian embassy in Manila on Wednesday to lodge a letter appealing to Widodo for mercy.

Aside from Veloso, convicts from Australia, Brazil, France, Ghana and Nigeria are set to face a firing squad after they had their requests for presidential clemency rejected, although a further appeal in the case of the Australians Chan and Sukumaran is planned.

The death penalty was abolished in the mainly Catholic Philippines in 2006.

The obduracy of the Indonesian government in the face of serious concerns about either the guilt of the accused or whether they deserve being executed is disgusting.

Another of the batch to be executed suffers from paranoid schizophrenia: it is a widely accepted rule of law that it is wrong to execute someone whose mental impairment may have contributed to their behaviour, as it goes to the issue of their culpability.

Rodrigo Gularte is relaxed about the death penalty. He knows it has been abolished across the world. The people that monitor and control him via satellite through the microchip they have implanted in his head have told him so.

Gularte, 42, is a deeply disturbed paranoid schizophrenic who is facing imminent execution by firing squad, along with ten others.

He has no concept of what is happening to him. When his family visits, he is constantly distracted as he searches the skies over Nusakambangan prison for the manned satellite that is stalking him.

Gularte, from Curitiba in Brazil, was arrested in 2004 with two other Brazilian couriers bringing 6kg of cocaine into Indonesia. He’d been treated for depression since his teenage years. He had become a drug addict and was an easy target for Brazil’s drug cartels, looking for people to ship cocaine to Indonesia.

Troubled teen ... Rodrigo was struggled with depression Pictures: Supplied

Troubled teen … Rodrigo struggled with depression from an early age.

Proof that Gularte was unwell was evident by what he did when he was arrested: he told police that the two men with him had nothing to do with it. He took all blame.

The two were allowed to go home to Brazil and the following year Gularte was sentenced to death.

The hearing was itself a travesty. Gularte’s mother, Clarisse, now 71, and his cousin, Angelita Muxfeldt, 49, flew to Jakarta a week after his arrest. As they waited to see Gularte, a lawyer arrived for an unexpected late-night meeting.

The lawyer said he could get them into the police station, right at that moment, to see Gularte. He was trying to show them how influential he was. They were suitably impressed, and paid him “a lot” of money.

He then abandoned his client.

When Gularte was sentenced to death in 2005, he was totally alone. The lawyer had fled with the cash, failing to tell the family and embassy officials that he was to be sentenced. He did not stand a chance.

Alatoui's wife campaigns ceaseless for him to be saved.

Alatoui’s wife campaigns ceaseless for him to be saved.

Another inmate was arrested for working on a “drugs lab” as a welder, but had no knowledge of the eventual use of the construction site he was working on and had only been there three days: he had no involvement in drug trafficking whatsoever.

Serge Atlaoui, a father of four children, was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory designed to produce ecstasy. He was sentenced to death in 2007 on drug trafficking charges. Already imprisoned in Indonesia for ten years, he has always denied the charges saying he was installing industrial machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory. What a nightmare for him and his family and friends. The French President and Foreign Minister have campaigned vigorously for him not to be executed.

It becomes increasingly clear that these impending executions have nothing to do with justice and everything to do with playing internal politics in Indonesia. Indonesian President Widodo did not even READ the case files on these poor people before rejecting their appeals for clemency.

In reality, the only thing that may be keeping these people alive is international attention. It needs to be more embarrassing for Indonesia to carry out the death penalty than it is for them to back down.

Wellthisiswhatithink urges you to share this story, and any others you see, to ensure that the visibility of these poor people’s situations is maintained. Tweet this story, Facebook it, re-blog it. Thank you.

(From AFP, Daily Mail, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and others)

Bali’s chief prosecutor says he plans to transfer two Australian drug smugglers out of their Bali prison in the next 48 hours in preparation for their executions.

Momock Bambang Samiarso is charged with the responsibility of transferring Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to an island prison off Java to face a firing squad.

So far all plans Indonesian officials have announced for the executions have been delayed. The two Bali Nine members were due to be taken away to the island last month before the move was postponed.

But Mr Momock now says he has an order to transfer them this week, and plans to do so tonight or tomorrow night.

The elite police unit BRIMOB, which will handle security, and the prison managers are on standby for when the order comes through.

Lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran are still attempting a legal appeal, but the government was effectively ignoring that, saying nothing could stop the executions.

And contradicting more positive comments by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, President Joko Widodo has again lashed out at foreign intervention over the death penalty in Indonesia.

 

firingsquad

 

Mr Widodo warned a room full of high school students about the dangers of drugs and reiterated his commitment to show no mercy to drug offenders.

“About drugs, please be careful. Now there are more or less 50 people from our generation who die because of drugs, 50 per day,” he said.

Those figures are hotly disputed by many, but the president has been using them to justify his tough line on drugs and he rallied students for support. Meanwhile opinion polls in Indonesia suggest up to 70% of the local population may support the death penalty for drug felons, which is very probably why he seeks to remain so obdurate on the matter that he did not even READ the arguments in favour of clemency detailing the thorough rehabilitation of the two Australians.

In an ironic move, Myuran Sukamaran has been awarded a degree in fine arts by Curtin University in recognition of his progress in creating art in prison in Bali.

If he is shot, the world will lose a more than competent artist, the Indonesian prison system will lose a man who has helped dozens of his fellow prisoners to lead more fulfilled lives, in Andrew Chan they will lose a warm-hearted and dedicated Christian minister-in-training, and the drugs trade will continue unabated. What a terrible, rotten and extraordinarily stupid shame.

At this stage, when time is obviously short, probably the fastest way to make one’s feelings known is to directly “tweet” the President. His Excellency’s Twitter account is @jokowi_do2

 

A hundred thousand twitter messages might just help. Please show clemency, Your Excellency. The prisoners deserve it.

A hundred thousand twitter messages might just help. Please show clemency, Your Excellency. The prisoners deserve it.

 

Those in Australia and around the world who are deeply concerned that Indonesia should not shoot Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran because they are very obviously reformed and rehabilitated will be bouyed by the news in today’s media that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has actually managed to get through to President Widodo to discuss their case.

As the grim prepaprations for their executions by firing squad continue, Australians have been deeply shocked by the revelations that Widodo had not even considered the representations made to him on behalf of the pair before rejecting their plea for clemency.

You can read about the story of Abbott’s phone call here:

https://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/26434903/jakarta-urged-to-respect-bali-nine-appeals/

Meanwhile the pressure on the two men themselves must be unimaginable. For a little while, Australia is experiencing the horrific “on-off” farce that the application of the death penalty everywhere so often becomes, as prisoners who have strong arguments against being executed watch their cases grind through the various courts.

We can only hope Australians continue to apply polite but firm pressure to Widodo to consider these mens’ cases with care, and with compassion. The Indonesia justice system will, in the future, allow clemency for death row cases where after 10 years in prison it can be demonstrated that the prisoners are rehabilitated. Yet this entirely sensible provision does not apply to Chan and Sukumaran! What a Kafkaesque nightmare they are trapped in.

At this stage, when time is obviously short, probably the fastest way to make one’s feelings known is to directly “tweet” the President. His Excellency’s Twitter account is @jokowi_do2

 

 

Chan and sukumaran

 

In a cell, or wandering the yard, the two wait.

Soon, they will be taken to a field.

Their choice. Blind or clear eyed:

one last look at the moon?

Stand, sit, or kneel? A thoughtful touch.

Tense as they hear the barked command

the three bullets will tear through the night sky

like eager dogs let off the leash.

Into their heart

or near it.

If lucky, they die instantly

if not, they will bleed

until revolver bang just above the ear

cup of tea home to wife.

High above, the seagulls will whirl,

squawkingly, suddenly, disturbed.

A child stirs down the road in a hut.

Then all is silent, ambulances

remove the bodies. No need for sirens.

No need for more fuss than is

absolutely necessary.

firing squad

 

A few weeks back, Indonesia executed five “drug mules”, including a woman. Executions in Indonesia are customarily carried out by firing squad and that was the case here.

The executions reflect the “tough on drugs” stance of the new Indonesian President. Of particular interest to Australians is that two citizens (members of the so-called “Bali 9”) who intended to import heroin to Australia are also scheduled to be executed together soon, despite having very obviously become rehabilitated while in prison in Bali, to the extent that the Governor of their prison has argued they should not be executed. A final appeal has been refused, and the executions could occur any day now, at 72 hours notice to the condemned.

The appeal was based on the simple argument that the two individuals, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, have been thoroughly rehabilitated in the ten years they have been in jail. Chan is training for the priesthood and does fine work helping fellow prisoners in his Bali jail. Sukumaran has developed into a fine artist and teaches painting to his fellow prisoners. Neither pose any threat to society. Executing them is entirely a matter of revenge, or internal Indonesian politics.

The two have now apparently penned a desperate letter from death row, begging the Indonesian government to spare them as they run out of options to avoid the firing squad, planned for the next two weeks.

Their friend, Pastor Matius Arif, says the pair are ‘very sad’ their bid for a judicial review was rejected in the courts on Wednesday.

He read an open letter – handwritten by Sukumaran and addressed to the Indonesian government, signed by both Australians – to reporters outside Kerobokan jail on Thursday. It argues they are more useful alive as they work to rehabilitate other prisoners.

‘We beg for moratorium so we can have chance to serve Indonesia community (sic)’ the letter says.

Mr Matius said: ‘There’s so many testimonies about what they’re doing inside. I also personally request the government to make a special commission or a special team to investigate what they’re doing inside.’

The team should then report on the rehab programs to the president, he said.

The application for a judicial review detailed the work of Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, to assist others through chaplaincy and art programs.

Denpasar District Court determined it didn’t meet the ‘new evidence’ criteria for a review.

It was the last legal option for the pair, who have been denied clemency by President Joko Widodo.

Barrister Julian McMahon says their team is still examining the options after Wednesday’s setback.

‘At the moment our Indonesian lawyers are reviewing the decision made yesterday which was called a stipulation, which prevented us from proceeding with that appeal, and obviously while any legal options that have value remain open we will pursue them’ he told Sky News.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, too, says diplomatic efforts to save them are continuing.

‘We are not going to engage in last-minute, megaphone diplomacy but I just want to assure people that the Australian government has left no stone unturned to try to ensure that these two Australians on death row have their sentences commuted,’ he said.

The men’s families visited Kerobokan jail again on Thursday, with Sukumaran’s brother Chintu wrapping his arm around their mother Raji.

In any event, in our opinion, using the death penalty to fight drug usage is unhelpful.

The “purely” legal arguments

Firstly, the act goes against a number of international law standards (to which Indonesia is a party) which argue that drug trafficking does not meet the standard of exceptionally severe crimes that warrant the imposition of the death penalty. Despite widespread support for the death penalty for drug crime in Indonesia, this point has been made in an opinion piece in the Jakarta Times last month. (An impressive example of how far this once authoritarian society has come in recent years.) Typically, such crimes include the death of another person – murder. Whilst many would argue that drug trafficking can contribute to the deaths of the eventual drug users, a straight line cannot be drawn between the act of drug trafficking and any individual death.

Secondly, for a dug criminal to be captured it follows that their drugs were interdicted. As the drugs never reached their target market, no one was harmed. One cannot execute someone for the possibility of having caused harm had the drugs got through.

The social arguments

Drug mules are often individuals who suffer from addiction themselves, and are vulnerable individuals who are desperate for money to feed their own habits. Whilst this is regrettable, it has a lower level of criminal culpability than those, for example, who manufacture the drugs or mastermind their distribution. What’s more, their own drug addiction should be viewed as a health issue: a matter for treatment, not punishment.

The real drug kingpins almost never appear in court. Too many cut outs exist between them and their mules. That they are allowed to go free (often protected by substantial political and judicial influence achieved through bribery with the very money generated by their own mules) is detestable. We cannot have one law for the rich and one for the poor.

Similarly, if they are ever ensnared in the judicial system, they can use their power to avoid severe punishment, an opportunity not available to their workers. For law to contribute to a more just society, it must be levied justly and equally or society itself becomes corrupted.

Last but by no means least, there is no evidence that the death penalty provides a deterrent against drug trafficking. Convictions for trafficking have increased in Indonesia despite recent cases of the death penalty being imposed. More than 50 persons currently sit on death row in Indonesia because of drug offences.

So what should we do?

The solution to the drug problem is two-pronged.

First, we should attack the source of the drugs – go after the owners and managers of the drug cartels rather than their soldiers. this need not only be via head on assault – identifying and confiscating their wealth would make the business notably less attractive. Significantly greater resources should be devoted to this effort.

Second, we should dramatically increase the health-based treatment of “hard” drug users in Western society, offering them treatment options which reduce demand for heroin, cocaine and amphetamines. While demand exists, the free market will find ways to meet it. One entirely sensible move would be to decriminalise (note, not legalise) these drugs and dispense them via the pharmacy profession, which would break the nexus between traffickers and also reduce death due to overdose and allow health education to and intervention with addicts. This approach is widely regarded to have been extremely successful in Portugal.

Sadly, such moves are far less dramatic or newsworthy than tying people to a pole and shooting them. As always, politics is likely to win out over commonsense.

And in the meantime, those on death row and their families and friends go through the torments of hell wondering whether their sentences will, in fact, be carried out, and when. Such psychological torture is unconscionable in an advanced society.

refugees.jpg

They look dangerous. Let’s send them somewhere acceptably primitive and tropical so no more come.

In a rush to the darkest hole in the murky depths of the political gene pool, Australian Labor have now decreed that any refugee attempting to arrive by boat who are intercepted before reaching the shores of our vast, under-populated and incredibly wealthy country will never be allowed to settle here, but will, instead, be shipped off permanently to Papua New Guinea.

PNG is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Their residency there will be paid for by huge Australian aid grants – theoretically, that is: the PNG infrastructure is woefully inadequate for their existing population, and it is hard to see how they could possibly cope with an influx of thousands of Iranians, Afghanis and Sri Lankans – but the Australian electorate are not even permitted to know what the scale of this financial support might be, as opposed to the cost (or likely benefit, as shown by research paper after research paper), of settling any refugees in Australia.

This is a disgracefully mean-spirited and petty move from our Prime Minister, who so often parades his “Christian” virtue – what a hypocrite. What a nasty little power hungry goblin of a man he really is, to be sure. He has the moral compass of a gang leader trying to take over a rival’s turf – in this case, the ever-strident ratbaggery of Tony Abbott and his radical right cronies.

It is a timely moment for everyone interested in the quality of our governance to remember Martin Luther King’s famous remark:

“Everything Hitler did was legal.”

The “PNG solution” is legal.

It is also wickedly, shamefully and embarrassingly wrong: it is morally unsupportable.

And that it could be considered an aid to the slim prospects of Kevin Rudd being re-elected is a swingeing indictment of the priorities of the Australian electorate, and of the endless campaign of misinformation that has been waged by the Liberal-National Coalition both in and out of office.

A plague on both your houses.

That we are obliged, by law, to exhaust our ballot choices until we inevitably vote for one or the other of you is no longer tenable.

It is time – long overdue – that “None of the above/No further” was an available option on our Alternative Vote ballot papers. A reform that would see many seats left vacant after an election, I am sure. Just the wake up call the hacks in the Australian Government and Opposition – and the commentariat that lets them get away with such appalling policies – deserves and needs.

And while we’re about it, let’s nail two other pieces of public policy bullshit.

Bullshit #1

Would you risk this, would you risk your family, if you weren't utterly desperate?

Would you risk this, would you risk your family, if you weren’t utterly desperate?

This isn’t about stopping asylum seekers from drowning at sea.

If that was our motivation, we would simply send a few chartered cruise ships to Indonesia, scoop up all the refugees, and bring them to Australia safely.

This is because, despite Australia’s legal obligations, we don’t want these people here.

Despite our honourable tradition of welcoming refugees – and of them becoming leading citizens at all levels of our society – we have now officially decided to turn our backs on some of the poorest, weakest, most persecuted people on the planet.

Because remember, these are not “illegal immigrants”. They are not “economic migrants”. Because if they are found to be, then they are repatriated. These are displaced people, refugees.

Bullshit #2

Why do these people have to try and make their way to Australia?

Because Indonesia and Malaysia are not signatories to the UN Convention on Human Rights. They won’t give these people a “safe haven”. They lock them up. They marginalise them. They persecute them. They won’t let them work, raise a family, make their own way.

So they HAVE to keep going. So tell me, someone, why does Australia support the Governments of these countries with economic aid? Why do we not leverage this aid to insist that they take up their responsibilities too?

No, I am not arguing that Australia should not take up a larger share of the burden – we have the resources, and Lord knows we need the people. But the hypocrisy of the Indonesian and Malaysian leadership is nearly as breathtakingly sickening as that of the Milky Bar Kid and his acolytes in Canberra.

It is time for ordinary people in Australia to become righteously angry about this matter. Sadly, I suspect that apart from a laudable and vocal minority, they will focus their attention on the cricket.

Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of live cattle and sheep, often to predominantly Muslim countries where religious and cultural rules on meat consumption insist that animals are slaughtered by having their throats cut while still alive. Some Muslim authorities assert that stunning animals before killing them (as happens in most Western abbatoirs) does not offend against these rules, but many abbatoirs in countries like Turkey and Indonesia do not yet use stunning.

Pressure groups in Australia, and some politicians, argue that live exports should be banned, as transporting the animals long distances can often cause unnecessary hardship, and it is impossible to adequately police overseas killing  of animals to ensure it is carried out humanely.

They also argue that Australian farmers, and the country as a whole, would do better if the animals were slaughted here, and exported in an added-value packaged form overseas.

Moves to phase out the live export trade failed to pass the Australian parliament yesterday, defeated by the Labor and Liberal party’s combined votes.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the case, this new video from Animals Australia sharpens the focus on the debate. I must warn you, unless you are remarkably hard hearted, I think it is very distressing. But I also think it should be seen as widely as possible, and that this is a debate we have to have, which is why I have linked to it. Discussion welcome.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mODf8OIUniw&feature=player_embedded