The recent news reporting about Egypt's political crisis creates the impression the country has fallen into the hands of a band of ultra-conservative mullahs intent on forcing women into niqab (full covering) and chopping off light-fingered hands. Egypt is clearly in turmoil -- but the current troubles are more complex than opposition to a supposed radical religious takeover.
The protests have been centred on opposition to the country’s proposed new constitution, planned to go to referendum this Saturday. But much of the protest is now also explicitly opposed to the continuing presidency of Mohammad Morsi. Given his election in June in what was widely regarded as a free and fair process, this begs the question of the Egyptian opposition’s commitment to democratic processes.
As the world celebrates Human Rights Day on 10 December, it is a good time to pause to reflect on the status of human rights in Timor-Leste. 13 years after the end of Indonesian rule and after ten years of independence, the question arises as to whether Timor-Leste’s aspirations to respecting notions of human rights, as outlined in its Constitution, have been successful.
Notions of human rights are broadly located in two categories; civil and political rights and social, economic and cultural rights. It is conventional to regard these respective categories of rights as being equal in value and mutually dependent.
It is starting to look like Israel’s apparent reaction to the Palestinian Authority (PA) being granted ‘observer state’ status at the UN last Friday is about to backfire. In a rapidly changing world, Israel’s heavy handed response is seen as less and less seen as an appropriate way forward.
Last Friday, the UN General Assembly voted 138 to nine, with 41 abstentions, to grant Palestine observer state status. While not recognising Palestine as a full state, which requires nine of the 15 UN Security Council members to also vote in favour, including all veto-power members, the vote was a significant step towards Palestine’s eventual statehood recognition.
Contrary to claims by Israel’s spokesman, Mark Regev, the vote gave the PA overwhelming international endorsement for the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
There is much speculation that the Victorian Government will move to sack the Darebin City Council early in the New Year, following the release of the Ombudsman’s much anticipated report into the council’s affairs. On the face of it, the State Government will be acting to protect local residents by cleaning up yet another dodgy council.
There has long been a strong sense that the Ombudsman’s inquiry was necessary. Most Darebin residents are aware that there have been at least a couple of highly questionable council planning decisions, and it is common knowledge that political control of the council was held by a particular political network.
However, there is a yawning gap between addressing the problems of Darebin’s previous council and the Baillieu government’s likely solution. For a number of reasons, sacking the council is the wrong answer.
If it was intended as an act of sneaky rat cunning -- first get elected and then seize total power -- Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi's edicts last Thursday which have thrown the country into turmoil were both painfully transparent as well as being a high-risk gamble.
Exempting presidential decrees from judicial review fundamentally challenges the idea of separation of powers, which is critical to democratic functioning, is on the face of it an anti-democratic act. However, Egypt's judiciary remains that which was appointed by previous dictator Hosni Mubarak and there was real concern that it could, with the stroke of a pen, roll back the revolution.
The judiciary's hobbling of Egypt's parliament showed it is certainly not averse to wielding its power in overtly political ways.
Australia's draw-down of its remaining military force in East Timor, and the conclusion of the United Nations mission on December 31, has signalled that this sometimes troubled tiny country is now responsible for its own future. The stark realisation that the security blanket provided by the international community is being taken away has left some in East Timor feeling vulnerable. Some observers, too, have suggested that the withdrawal is still too soon and that East Timor still has the potential to slide back into internal conflict. The country’s leaders, however, have been making clear they are not only ready to take full responsibility for their own affairs but are demanding to do so. In this, Australia's continuing military presence is regarded by some East Timorese as neo-colonial, and the UN as of marginal competence or value.
The recently concluded East Asia Forum (EAF) has highlighted the contentious role of a growing China in regional affairs. For an event that was intended primarily to lay the foundation for a huge Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the EAF has been at least as notable for a profound, perhaps fatal, rift in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The proposed East Asia Free Trade Area (FTA), including around a third of the world’s global economy, is intended to capitalise on this region’s current and projected economic strength. While there are many thorny details to be resolved, not least trade advantages flowing from China’s artificially low currency, there is a general sense that the FTA process will continue to be developed.
The escalating battle between Israel and Hamas has raised questions as well as tensions.
With the Middle East in a state of flux, why did Israel strike at Hamas military leader? More importantly, why did Hamas respond in a way sure to invite an Israeli attack that it could not possibly fend off?
While Hamas’ military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari, had long been on Israel’s hit list and had, consequently, kept out of sight, his killing may be a calculated attempt to derail the Oslo peace accords, linked with trying to stymy the Palestinian Authority’s bid for UN recognition, due on the 29th of this month.
Israel’s leaders would have been all too aware that al-Jabari’s death would escalate regional tensions.
Among the many claims that about ‘boat people’ that are made in order to fulfil particular political agendas, one is that when a war is officially concluded then people who live in the once afflicted area have nothing more to worry about. As a result, they do not have a legitimate claim for protection against persecution.
If people flee such an area, the assumption is that they are ‘economic’ refugees, hoping to ‘queue jump’ in order to secure a better life for themselves. This has been the claim made about refugees fleeing Sri Lanka. This claim is morally wrong and it is wrong in fact.
From 1983 until 2009, a number of Tamil groups, eventually coming under the banner of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers), fought a bitter, bloody and often ruthless war to establish a separate ethnic Tamil state in Sri Lanka’s north and east. The war was a consequence of earlier anti-Tamil rioting.
There are a number of ways to interpret Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s failure to raise his asylum seeker ‘tow back’ proposal in his meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, but none of them are positive. In short, the ‘town back’ proposal was – and in so far as it continues to be defended by Opposition speakers – remains a policy disaster.
In a political contest increasingly characterised by who has the metaphorically hairiest chest, ‘Tow Back Tony’ has been a tough-guy par excellence. Not only had Mr Abbott taken the hardest line on asylum seekers, he went that one step further by not just saying that a government under his leadership would implement asylum seeker deterrent policies but it would physically take asylum seeker boats back to the territorial waters they came from.