Friday, May 28, 2010

Half truths, ignorance and lies

I was floating around the net the other day and popped in to Lav Paper, just to see how they could warp perception to suit a narrow worldview – again. There I read a post about a UN report into the practices of the RPNGC linked to the amount of Australian aid money going to PNG, a significant portion of which gets sucked up in consultant fees etc. Wondering how they might turn that extravegent waste into an ideaological issue, I had a look.

There I found, completely to my absolute lack of surprise, various commenters making sweeping statements purporting to be facts that bore only a passing resemblance, if any, to the truth. Of note was this gem from someone called billie:

From what little I know we have a long history of ham fisted actions in PNG probably due to lack of knowledge of PNG & its society. When Bouganville (sic) Copper mine was established the miners did not talk to the land owners. They talked to some men – but in New Britain society land is owned by the women.Get a map of the area. Bouganville (sic) is on New Britain. New Britain is really part of the Solomon Islands. New Guinea is the large island to the south The royalties were paid to Port Moresby. The people of New Britain are ethnically different to the people of New Guinea so money sent to Port Moresby stayed in New Guinea. The people effected (sic) by the mine site were not compensated for the disruption. When the mine closed after a landowner disturbances (sic) the PNG Army went through Bouganville (sic) house by house, street by street shooting
every body (sic). Most Australian ex-pats had left by then so most victims were locals. [A bit like the mining company in Avatar]

There was also this from a resident whacko called Lefty E:

Its (sic) worth reminding ourselves that Australia is the former colonial power here, and equally that we supported the PNG army to the hilt in Bougainville despite abundant evidence of human rights abuses – so let not our outrage blind us to our share of responsibility.

And of course, we also pulled our own police from line positions in PNG when their High Court determined we couldn't have full immunity from any prosecution (leading by example in terms of police accountability there!)

But all that duly noted – yep: any AU funding of the securty (sic) sector at least must be made conditional on transparent action on these human rights abuses.

I did get suckered into a response. My responses are as follows:

Billie is quite right. He/she really does know very little about PNG. It is true that many tribes from New Britain are matrilineal, but that is largely irrelevant because the point was being made about Bougainville, formerly North Solomons Province and quite separate from New Britain. It is true that Bougainvilleans are also a matrilineal society, which is different from a matriarchal society. It was quite culturally appropriate for BCL to speak to the men, they are the figurehead front. It is for the men to then speak to the women, the owners of the land, before they made any agreement with BCL. It would have been a gross imposition of our own cultural mores for BCL to directly approach the landowners.

I was living in PNG when the crisis started, and subsequently served in Bougainville with the Peace Monitoring Group, so you could say I was there at the start and at the finish. There had long been a secessionist bent in Bougainville, although the actual catalyst came from a negotiating failure on the part of the Panguna Landowners Association. The initial compensation figure demanded was, from memory, about twice what the mine had ever earned. It degenerated quickly because it was led by a lunatic, who eventually holed himself in at Panguna, declared himself the President of the Republic of Mekamui and eventually, King. Bougainville, with the financial support of BCL, was far better off than the rest of the South West Pacific prior to the crisis. All that came to a crashing halt when the BRA either blew up or burned down all of the benefits that came with the mine whilst also removing any capability they might have had to repair the damage the mine had done.

Atrocities were committed on both sides, in fact, make that all three sides. The BRA and the PNGDF were busy mauling each other when some of the locals decided that things were a whole lot better before it all started, and sided with the PNGDF. The BRA then retaliated and a nice little three-way fight ensued and civilian casualties were caused by all three groups. Yes Lefty E, Bob Hawke did send ADF elements to assist the PNGDF, although that was before it turned into a Civil War during the early phase of the Counter-insurgency. Our military aid consisted of unarmed helicopters piloted by Australians. They were quickly withdrawn when it became clear that human rights abuses, as well as terms of use violations, were occurring. The ALP Government then turned a blind eye to what was happening while the PNGDF blockaded the islands and let Bougainville sink into the horrific condition it was in when NZ decided to actually do something about it, with the support of the Howard Government.

It is also true that Bougainvilleans consider themselves more closely aligned to the Solomon Islands than PNG, although having served there as well, my own observation is that they have about as much in common with the Solomon Islands as they do with PNG. That didn't stop the crisis in Bougainville impacting on the Solomon Islands. The BRA were using the Solomon Islands as a staging area and safe haven from the PNGDF, running the gauntlet along the narrow strait to Choiseul Island. Although, as the crisis in the Solomons was later to show, they don't play well with their close neighbours, no matter how closely culturally aligned they may claim to be.

As to the issue of the AFP demanding immunity from prosecution, the "nuance" being missed here is that the immunity in question was not from any prosecution, but from prosecution in PNG. In order for the AFP to actually do the job asked of them, they would need to go after some of the big men in the inherently corrupt PNG legal system. They are the sort of people capable of avoiding prosecution by hauling AFP members in front of the PNG judicial system and seeing their problems disappear into the bowels of Bomana Prison. The AFP was still answerable to Australian law.

The rampant corruption in PNG derives predominantly from the Wantok System, whereby a man's principle obligation is not to his office, but to the extended clan – his wantoks. If Fran really wants to find the prima facie culprit for the mess in PNG, she need look no further than Gough Whitlam. In his rush to rid Australia of terribly unfashionable status of being a colonial power, he threw the people of PNG under the bus by abandoning our colonial obligations. Somehow, in the heady days of the "It's Time" campaign, the thought that thrusting Westminster Democracy on a stone age agrarian hunter/gatherer society was going to lead to anything other than what PNG is now, escaped the great thinkers in the ALP. PNG is rapidly on the way to becoming a failed state. The contribution from Australia to fix it is going to be significantly more costly than all the consultants in Canberra and will require a more robust legal framework than immunity from prosecution under PNG law.

Nobody has responded yet. I guess they all got distracted by Tony Abbott's recently announced refugee policy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Media to blame for Defence secrecy

The Daily Telegraph has run a story on the apparent secrecy around wounded ADF members returning from operations overseas. The thrust of the story is that Defence is trying to keep quiet the wounds that are being received over there. The story leads in with this line:

With opinion polls indicating Australians are divided over our involvement in Afghanistan, the Australian Defence Force's handling of casualties has come under scrutiny.

It has come under scrutiny from whom, the DT? The people getting upset at the lack of blood and gore horror stories coming from Afghanistan are the salivating media. The stories will come out, but rushing that through so that the Australian media scrum can onanate over the tragic circumstances of a wounded digger is not high on the list of priorities.

Wounded Australian soldiers, some having faced amputations and long-term suffering, are recuperating in facilities around the country, but the public seldom hears their stories.

Very true, the primary concern is the treatment and rehabilitation of the wounded. In order to achieve that, Defence go to significant lengths to make sure they are left alone by anyone not from their intimate circle of family and friends, or involved in their administration or their treatment. That includes nosy reporters having a slow news day.

The stories of the wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan will come out. Some already have. The rest will happen when the wounded themselves are ready to tell their stories. Defence won't throw them in the deep end and feed them to the press, no matter how much that infuriates them.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Andrew Bolt is wrong

The title of Andrew's piece today about Comedy Central's alarming double standards [South Park bravely savages the creed that won't say "boo"] is misleading and wrong. South Park has taken a satirical scalpel to Islam a number of times, as well as some of the other religious sacred cows that other comedy shows just won't touch. It is their parent network, Comedy Central, which censored their episode showing Mohamed and is planning a new series to poke fun at Christianity. The double standard is being displayed by Comedy Central, not South Park.

It is a hypocritical stance for Comedy Central to hold. How can they be willing to ridicule one religion, but not another? The short answer is fear. If we in the west accept that our culture can be dictated to by violent extremists, we have already lost. It is fine for Comedy Central to broadcast a series that mocks Christianity. It is not fine that they are willing to do that whilst they are censoring another show for ridiculing another religion. If it is OK to poke fun at one religion, it is OK to poke fun at all of them.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A new Kokoda VC winner?

I was pointed in the direction of this article in the Mt Druitt Standard. From the text:

AN Aboriginal recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC) is unheard of but on Anzac Day, two young Aboriginal boys from Bidwill stood out as they marched from Rooty Hill to Pinegrove Memorial Park, Minchinbury.

True, there have been no Aboriginal VC winners, although I would be pleased to be corrected if I am mistaken. The article goes on though:

Their mother, Bernie, says the medals
belong to her grandfather, Frederick Charles Perry.

Ms Zammit told the Mt Druitt-St Marys
Standard that her grandfather served in the 39th (Hawthorn Kew Regiment) and
53rd battalions in Kokoda.

She said he died in 1974 without anyone
in his family knowing anything about his accomplishments.

She said she only discovered her own
indigenous background 10 years ago and had since fought to be given Mr Perry's
service medals.

She said she had no idea he had received a VC.

"Back then black fellas never got their medals and no one in my family had ever claimed his," she said.

"I had to push to get them and I only got them a week before Anzac Day.

Here's where it gets interesting. There is no Frederick Charles Perry, VC. The list of Australian VC winners is here. In fact, there are only two people of that name on the WWII Nominal Roll. Given the benefit of the doubt that her grandfather ever served in New Guinea, it must have been this Frederick Charles Perry. His service details have him as a driver with the 2/47 Australian Transport Platoon, with no honours or awards that fit the National Archive criteria for display (which would include a VC).

Why would someone make a claim to something so demonstrably refutable?

Legen.........wait for it.......dary!

A BRITISH Army sniper has set a new sharpshooting distance record by killing two Taliban machinegunners in Afghanistan from more than 1 miles away.

Craig Harrison, a member of the Household Cavalry, killed the insurgents with consecutive shots — even though they were 3,000ft beyond the most effective range of his rifle.

"The first round hit a machinegunner in the stomach and killed him outright," said Harrison, a Corporal of Horse. "He went straight down and didn't move.

"The second insurgent grabbed the weapon and turned as my second shot hit him in the side. He went down, too. They were both dead."

The shooting — which took place while Harrison's colleagues came under attack — was at such extreme range that the 8.59mm bullets took almost three seconds to reach their target after leaving the barrel of the rifle at almost three times the speed of sound.

The distance to Harrison's two targets was measured by a GPS system at 8,120ft, or 1.54 miles. The previous record for a sniper kill is 7,972ft, set by a Canadian soldier who shot dead an Al-Qaeda gunman in March 2002.

More here.

Hat tip: Black Five