For long-term Burma watchers, it has been easy to regard that country’s recent political changes as window dressing by an authoritarian regime hoping to attract investment without actually giving up power. There is no doubt, too, that the 2010 elections remained a very long way from being free and fair.
But the bi-elections in April this year did appear to offer a glimpse of a genuine reform process, with opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) candidates winning 43 of the 44 seats contested. Burma’s President Thein Sein has since been feted around the world as a reformer, as has NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi as the symbol of hoped-for political change.
Since April, there have been numerous changes in Burma’s political and military leadership. To date, these changes have almost all seen the promotion of reformist officers or former officers and the side-lining of the government’s anti-reform faction.
The peace agreement between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed on Sunday has, it seems, brought to an end four decades of a bloody and destructive war in the southern Philippines that has cost an estimated 150,000 lives. Assuming the peace agreement holds, it will create an autonomous Islamic homeland for the Philippines’ ‘Bangsamoro’ people and bring much needed stability to an historically deeply troubled region. The peace agreement recognises the long-standing military stalemate between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the MILF. A compromise arrangement has long been recognised by the MILF and at least some in the government as the only practical means to ending the conflict.
The Victorian Department of Justice recently released a discussion paper calling for community input into the design and implementation of diversion programs for young people engaged in the criminal justice system.
Unlike many jurisdictions in Australia, Victoria has not adopted a legislative, court-based diversion scheme for addressing crime committed by children and young people. The state has also seen limited investment in diversionary programs and an overreliance on discretionary police cautions. For young people in rural and regional areas, access to diversion programs and support services is especially limited.
‘Hey everybody - this is barack’, wrote US President Barack Obama on the social networking space Reddit. ‘Just finished a great rally in Charlottesville, and am looking forward to your questions’.
According to the best estimates at the time, almost 105,000 Australians were homeless on census night in August 2006. This promoted then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to make the ambitious commitment to accommodate all people sleeping rough and halving the number of homeless in Australia by 2020.
At a time of bipartisan support for renewing the Pacific Solution, it is deeply disturbing to see the asylum seeker issue taking a turn for the more extreme. In a world of dog-whistle politics, it appears that further punishing victims is acceptable if it can score domestic political points.
Despite the opposition’s success in the government adopting its Pacific Solution, Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop’s call to return Sri Lankan asylum seekers to Sri Lanka without processing their claims reduces policy debate to moral abandonment. Backing her, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has displayed either ignorance or denial of the facts on the ground in Sri Lanka and Australia’s legal obligations.
With the click of button we can now fight poverty, condemn dictators, and occupy... (insert your home town here). Online activist organisation Getup! offers us the chance to support gay marriage and refugees and asylum seekers. CommunityRun even lets us devise our own campaigns. YouTube offers the perfect place for ideas to begin their viral journey. While Facebook provides a community of millions to reach out to.
From a sleepy backwater, the South Pacific has been catapulted into the diplomatic limelight, with the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in the Cook Islands playing host not just to Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, but to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and a large delegation from China. All of a sudden, the Pacific island states – a mere scattering of specks in a vast blue ocean – are at centre stage.
'The most fertile ground for experimentation is where the real and the virtual blend together... Artists tend to push on the questions that we’ll all be asking years later. And in the process, they often grapple with emerging technologies in unpredicted ways’ (Cacophony).