Posts Tagged ‘Malaysia’

Human rights lessons from Turkey?

August 26, 2012

Learning human rights lessons from Turkey?


Gerard Oosterman

Turkey promised to keep its borders open for the people fleeing the violence in Syria. Many thousands of Syrians have crossed into Turkey and footage shows men and women, children walking into that country.

Even though Turkey is a country with a large population of over seventy million and already coping with an overflow of many other nationalities, it has not lost its humanity in doing the right thing by extending its hospitality to those so much worse off. They are quickly opening disused buildings and building camps, constructing a temporary hospital.

If Turkey can do it, where is our compassion?

Lack of ‘humaneness’ is what seems to doggedly divide Australia from most of the rest of the world with a deeply engrained hostility towards others. It is especially directed to those hapless victims of endless wars that somehow managed to make it anywhere near our shores.

Our present minister and previous Government ministers have exalted in, ‘we must make conditions here as harsh as possible as a deterrent’. The general gist of the messages from our ‘Leaders’ has been very constant, ‘No-one, we repeat, no-one should come here under the understanding they will be treated with compassion or care if they jump the ‘queue’ or come ‘illegal’ by boat,’  is what they mainly are saying. The political leaders are well aware that those sentiments will be well rewarded with the approval of thousand of voters.

The latest threat of sending at least 800 refugees to Malaysia just about takes the cake in the manoeuvring of our desperate Government keen to further whip up our xenophobia. The fact that this whipping might be translated to a caning in Malaysia was just seen as a mere bagatelle, easily overcome with a few soothing words of a promise that that would most likely not happen. The UNHCR seems less convinced.

While the conversation is continuing and a flurry of visits to New Guinea and Nauru intending to underline our tough stance once again, some might question where this dreadful fear comes from. Is there something in our history that gives us clues?

We couldn’t do much wrong by visiting our most recent history of how we treated children, both in our mother country of the UK and in our own.

Just having seen the film Oranges and Sunshine and previously read David Hill’s, The Forgotten Children, I wonder if  one day we might admit there was something rotten going on in our culture dating back perhaps hundreds of years. I know of no other country that exported and deported over 130,000 children in recent times. I also know of no other country that then allowed the further destruction of those children in the institutions they arrived at.

Is it is the history of bullying children and sending them into the hierarchical system of the English Boarding Schools, the Public (Private) Schools with its whipping masters and the degrading of all those coming into contact with the ‘British system’ of parenting and educating?

This seems to go to the very heart of why Australia has never managed to shake of that bullying that defined us from the very start.

Yet, when it comes to cattle or suicidal whales we all get teary eyed, ban the export of cattle or stand in the sea for days stroking dying whales. Where is the stroking for the flotsam of humans cast on our shores?

Last Monday’s Four Corners: again ‘bullying and degrading’ at the very core of our armed forces. It is totally ‘us’ and not just the isolated few of ‘them’. Howard, Ruddock, Abbott, Gillard, Morrison, Bowen. What chance did they all have growing up and indoctrinated into a system of bullying? No Government except the British conduct parliament so appallingly and again, bullying is at the very heart of it.

In the meantime we should take a leaf out of Turkey’s book. We will not turn them away, is what the Turkish Minister for Immigration is reported as saying. They are human beings in distress.

I can’t even imagine one of our politicians saying that.

Gerard Oosterman blogs here.

Calm down and look back.

February 27, 2012

The recent ballot taken as a result of a challenge to the leadership by the previous PM has turned out exactly as predicted. There was not a single opinion by anyone that was dissenting anywhere. Yet, the media went, just as predictable berserk. Headlines in Newspapers were screaming to the extent, that many elderly pedestrians fainted, some called for ambulances.

On TV, even the dulling powder puffs on the journo- cum- shock –jock’s faces were foregone adding greatly to the excitement not seen since the days of Princess Mary and Kylie Minogue. The sheen on their brilliantly lit faces was unequalled except perhaps during the interviews of those large mining magnates in Western Australia. The sheen on opulent faces is always in direct proportion to the billions in bulbous bullion ingots they have stashed away in secret Perth Bunkers. Come to think of it, so are their bodies, in size I mean, perhaps in sheen as well. I haven’t studied Palmer’s or Gina’s sheen below their collars.

We seem to have entered an era of instant politics that in the same vein respond to instant polls. We have just about got over that vile drink ‘euphemistically’ named Instant COFFEE. Instant, perhaps, but coffee, no way? There is now Instant cheese and it comes in a tube. Polls now come as regular as errant shopping trolleys discarded along nature strips. What do you think ‘nature strips’ are for, you old fogey fools? This is our world now, it’s our time, they are our nature strips, piss off, move over you pathetic grump.

Just fifty metres from our Woolies store in Bowral someone, very gifted, had lifted a trolley high up and managed, through herculean efforts, to impale it on one of those no-parking signs with the open ended flap of the trolley being used allowing the sign to enter it and the trolley to be dragged down the bottom on the nature strip with the traffic sign triumphantly sticking up in the middle of the trolley. Now, there is a creative boy about somewhere. I can’t imagine a lady pensioner doing that.

What goes on in the mind of someone walking past a trolley, abandoned in a nature strip? What mind would come up with the idea of going through the effort of wrestling it over and onto a traffic sign? In Singapore or Malaysia they would give him 120 lashes, his bum stripped bloody raw, but never a shopping trolley in danger again from him. Here, probably a reward for community services rendered. A Freudian trained psychiatrist would probably see a serial rapist in the making, ramming things all the way somewhere. He seems destined to become a rugby player instead.

Serves the trolley right. Why is it that the Aldi and European methods of an ordered trolley regime with small deposits on trolleys has not been made nationwide compulsory? It works well. Here though, there are rewards offered and helicopters are hovering above, trying to trace lost trolleys. It seems a strange and costly way to check up on trolleys.

Anyway, it’s not any stranger than the panic driven hysteria over the latest political stoush. Where was the calm and considerate looking back by the challenger? How could an experienced and ex PM not see, that the challenge would end in defeat. Did he not count those in caucus that would not support him?

Are they all driven by face-book emotions? Is the media ramping up politicians into a frenzy of self adoring that hides all logic and reason, a kind of endless tweeting ‘ The Emperor’s new clothes’ beautification? Are all politicians in the grip of a Stockholm syndrome whereby the enslavement to the captive image has become an insurmountable reality? Do they all look in the mirror and see a beautiful and glorious Tiberius Claudius Caesar with an admiring media all hooked on an intravenously administered Instant News hook up? It’s all now panic, hyped up internet face-book twittering raging media and political turmoil maelstrom.

Where has the calm gone, the looking back and taking time?

Orang-utan and Boatpeople

August 2, 2011


Orang-utans and boat people.

Does anyone see the irony of the complaints by Malaysians about Australia’s treatment of Orang-utans at Melbourne zoo and the habit of caning people in Malaysia, or even more relevant, the treatment of our boat people in detention?

The latest news tells that a representative of a Malaysian Palm oil counsel had made complaints about the Orang-utans’ treatment at a Melbourne zoo. They were horrified about the Orang-utans being somewhat cold. They had heard sounds of sad crying and signals of distress from the animals. The Orang-utans were shivering and a picture was even shown of one of them carrying a coat. Melbourne Zoo retaliated and stated that the outside and inside temperature in their environments was kept at a cosy constant 20celsius. “They are the happiest Orang-utans in the world,” they replied.

At the same time, we are all being reassured that the latest boat arrivals to Australia that will be sent back to Malaysia will not be caned. We also are now being told on the news that those unwilling to board the plane back to Malaysia might be forced to do so with full authority given to the Federal Police to use whatever they can muster for the boat people to comply. There are lawyers busy on a formal protest about the possible use of force on people already traumatised.
Are we getting care for Orang-utans and people somewhat mixed up or confused? If the Orang-utans are the ‘happiest’ in the world, I wonder about the level of ‘happiness’ of boat people being returned to Malaysia.

The federal police have been given ‘carte blanche’ by our PM Julia Gillard to ensure the boatpeople would board the plane back to Malaysia. This, we were assured might involve whatever the federal police have at their disposal. This, it was suggested, could well include the use of ‘potential lethal force’ with no ‘blanket exemptions’ even for unaccompanied children. This lethal force has been used on Christmas Island already. We are not shy from using lethal force when it comes to boat people. Bean bag bullets fired from shotguns, batons, tear gas, capsicum spray, handcuffs, the whole arsenal at the Feds disposal has been used to force compliance on more than just one occasions. So far our treatment of boatpeople and refugees is not showing the world much about our compassion towards the less fortunate.

While we don’t cane people in Australia, we are not far from it, edging inexorably closer. Not the cane, instead the possible use of electric Tasers or cattle prods instead. It could be debated whether being stunned by a Taser or bean bag bullet is better or worse than a caning. The concern by the Malaysians about treatment of Orang-utans in Melbourne could perhaps be best answered by giving a Malaysian delegation a grand tour of our own Australian refugee camps in isolated Australia’s outback and on Christmas Island. Let’s show them how we do it so much better, so much more humane!

I am not sure about the percentage of self harm by our zoo inhabitants including the alleged shivering Orang-utans but I bet it is a lot less that amongst our own boat people locked up for long periods, living in uncertainty, in isolation, behind gates, fences and barbed wire. The ombudsman had all the figures, mind numbing it was.
Was it fifty a day, twenty or was it a hundred a month or just a couple of real or attempted hangings daily? Did it include lip sewing, roof jumping, wrists slashings and hunger strikes? Razors for shaving are taken away after the shower. Just in case. All points of possible hanging are removed. Suicide has been made harder as well. It has not only become mind bogglingly numbing, it is now heart numbing as well. We just let it go on and we shut our hearts and prefer to focus on royal weddings or the passing of a bill in the US.

It’s getting harder and harder to push away images of the Holocaust whereby people were also traumatised and pushed onto transport by the use of force. Most countries are coping with refugees in the tens of thousands, some in the millions. Even overcrowded Malaysia is coping with over eighty thousand refugees registered with the UNHCR. We seem unable to just treat people like we do with the Orang-utans at Melbourne zoo. We are using the same Jack Boots methods that were so popular in dealing with another traumatised and defenceless people some seventy years ago.

One can just imagine within the next day or so, footage of boat people being herded by force into the plane. Journalists will have their cameras focussed and the world will again learn about us.
When did we lose our hearts?