The death yesterday of South-east Asia’s most wanted criminal, the terrorist Noordin Mohamad Top, came as a happy surprise to Indonesian authorities, given they did not know he was in the Solo, Central Java house they were raiding. However, given the closing security net around Top, it was always possible that he would meet his end in such an unplanned way.
The real question that comes with the death of Malaysian-born Top is whether this will spell an end to Islamist terrorism in Indonesia or, indeed, South-East Asia. The answer is twofold, the first part depending on how one defines ‘terrorism’, and the second part depending on how one defines ‘Islamism’.
You wouldn’t expect a surgeon to recommend Chinese medicine to his patients. His advice usually involves a scalpel and some nasty cutting. Similarly, it would be surprising for military men to advocate political solutions to global conflicts. It’s not their area of professional expertise. By default they lead with their strongest suit – organised violence - not geopolitics or diplomacy.
Like economists and market forecasting, the consistent failure of military options in the modern world is rarely a deterrent, or even disheartening, for men with guns. Victory is always only just another battalion or squadron away. However, after eight long and costly years, it is increasingly obvious to most Australians that there are no military solutions to Afghanistan’s complex social and political problems. The Taliban, even without aircraft, satellites or armour, are unlikely to be defeated by either Western troops or their local proxies.
The recent “Father Bob” controversy suggests that perhaps Bob Maguire should be put in charge of marketing strategy at Christian HQ (not sure if they have a headquarters, but it sounds good – a big Church with cars with flashing crucifixes parked out the front; lots of people walking around with Bibles looking serious; interrogating atheists; all wearing those cassock thingies and the Pope headgear).
The Australian Federal Police announcement that it will investigate charges of war crimes against perpetrators of the murder of five Australian based journalists in the East Timorese town of Balibo in 1975 has put a legal cat among the diplomatic pigeons. Already senior Indonesian politicians have objected, saying they will not cooperate with such an investigation, while the Australian government and department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is going into a now well practiced mode of damage control.
The Australian government, including PM Rudd and Foreign Minister Smith, have predictably – and correctly - said that the matter is a judicial one that does not involve political intervention. Indonesia’s President Yudhoyono is likely to say much the same, although a government spokesman has already reacted with some hostility.
It is hardly novel that a politician looking back at the glory days of office will want to ensure that their political legacy looks as positive as possible. And for whatever faults one might find with John Howard’s period as prime minister, he was a politically-successful prime minister.
One wonders, then, why Howard finds it necessary to create a palpable fiction over his commitment to East Timor's independence, which he claimed was both inevitable and that he would go along with it. Similarly, one wonders why a journalist of Paul Kelly's stature would participate in the peddling of the fiction that "the Howard government decided in early 1999 to work for East Timor's independence", given evidence to the opposite is both overwhelming and freely available.
Colonel Muammar Qaddafi has been the leader of Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya since September 1969. After 40 years in control of his nation, Qaddafi is actually the world’s longest serving non-monarchial head of state.
From being the leader of a successful military coup to being America’s bête noire of the 1980s and then the head of a much-vilified rogue state under twenty-seven years of UN sanctions, the mercurial Qaddafi has lately steered his nation to something of a rapprochement with the West, been elected to the chairmanship of the African Union and simultaneously had a very public falling out with some of his Arab leaders.
Steve Holland wrote in Crikey yesterday complaining about a supposed ‘media blackout’ in East Timor. As with another issue, he is wrong about this. There is no media ‘blackout’, but rather a refusal by the prime minister, Xanana Gusmao, to continue to feed into under-researched stories that have already been shown to be factually incorrect.
Refusing to comment on an incorrect premise does not, of course, equate to ‘censorship’, as Steve Holland claims.
As a matter of principle, all governments, including those of small and democratic neighbours, should be open and accountable. For those who have been following East Timor for some time, this has generally been shown to be the case.
On Sunday (30 August), it will be 10 years since the people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia. Following 24 years in which more than a quarter of the population was killed or died as result of the occupation, the vote of almost 80 per cent in favour of independence was not surprising.
What was extraordinary was that in what had become a war zone, 98.6 per cent of registered voters turned out to vote. Many had trekked long distances over rough tracks, coming down from the relative safety of the mountains to line up before dawn at polling stations across the territory.
Heavily armed Indonesian police and soldiers stood at, and inside, polling centres. The Indonesian army’s proxy militias strolled in and out intimidating voters. In the village of Balibo, Indonesian intelligence officers directed the Halilintar (Lightning) militia and paid cash to ‘voters’ trucked in from West Timor.
Plans to reduce carbon emissions are currently centre stage in Federal politics. There now exists two alternative policies to reduce carbon emissions in Australia – the first is legislation before the Senate as proposed by the Government and the second is a proposal developed by the Opposition. Neither is adequate and neither seems to countenance the next major international meeting to discuss the global response to be held in Copenhagen later this year.
Barack Obama’s use of social media in the lead-up to the recent US presidential election is well documented. Now in office, the Obama administration is making extensive use of social media to communicate and engage with citizens. In his blog, President Obama said governments “cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking."
Across the Atlantic, the UK Government is also leading a charge to embrace social media. The UK Cabinet Office has published guidelines encouraging civil servants to use the micro-blogging site Twitter.