Category Archives: politics

Balancing on Brexit tightrope by Thanos Kalamidas

If London mayorship and a term at the foreign office can be a blue print for what is coming then British people will really miss “strong and stable” Theresa May.

Boris Johnson, the new British Prime Minister, a well-known populist and internationally diplomat goofy while a huge question mark. Nobody really knows what Boris, the Prime Minister, will bring into Downing Street and nobody knows how strong and especially how stable his prime-ministry will be. Still, he is the Brexiteers last hope.

boris001_400_01Boris Johnson, in spite of former PR performances while London’s mayor, is literally balancing on a tightrope and this has not only to do with the deadlock situation in the negotiations with EU but mainly with the things the former foreign secretary has promised in the past, he has said in the past and has often confusingly radically change the last three years.

His latest promise and most likely the one that elected him to the prime minister’s seat is that Brexit will end by the end of October with or without an agreement. Pointing that he means an agreement he likes not the one May compromised with. While giving this promise willingly or not, Boris Johnson voluntarily put a possible expiring day to his prime-ministry.

Despite all the problems Britain is facing at the moment, Boris was elected by the conservative party to end Brexit as soon as possible with the less possible damage for the British interests. Period. The rest of the problems are postponed for after Brexit which shows how little the Tories understand the situation and how little they comprehend the vice-versa relationship between the general economic situation and the outcome of a no-deal Brexit. Actually it is the general financial situation that makes a no-deal Brexit nightmarish difficult.

For the rest of the article, please check HERE!

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Manus, Nauru and an Australian Detention Legacy by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

It could be called a gulag mentality, though it finds form in different ways. In the defunct Soviet Union, it was definitive of life: millions incarcerated, garrisons of forced labour, instruments of the proletarian paradise fouled. Gulag literature suggested another society, estranged and removed from civilian life, channelled into an absent universe. Titles suggested as much: Gustaw Herling’s work was titled A World Apart; Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago likewise suggested societies marooned from the broader social project. But these were intrinsic to the bricks and mortar, in many cases quite literally, of the Soviet state. 

In the case of countries supposedly priding themselves in the lotteries of exaggerated freedom, the influence of this carceral mentality is less obvious but still significant. In Australia, where offshore processing of naval arrivals and its own offerings of gulag culture were made, six years has passed since Nauru and Manus Island became outpost of indefinite detention.

manus01_400During the years, legislation has been passed encasing these outposts in capsules of secrecy, superficially protected by island sovereignty. Whistleblowing has been criminalised; concerned doctors have been expelled; suicides, sexual assault and psychological mutilations have been normalised in the patchwork monstrosity that involves compromised local officials, private security firms and funding from the Australian tax payer.

A most obvious consequence of this is the cultivation of a thuggish lack of accountability. Australian politicians keen to visit the handiwork of their government have been rebuffed. Greens Senator Nick McKim had been trying to splash out some publicity on the anniversary, paying a visit to Manus Island. He noted a deterioration in conditions since his 2017 visit.

On Thursday, he was approached by two immigration officials who informed him that he would be deported. He had been attempting to see East Lorengau camp, was denied entry, and his passport confiscated. To SBS News, he expressed his disappointment “that they are threatening to deport me because I am here to expose the truth about the treatment of refugees, to lift the veil of secrecy that’s been draped over Australia’s offshore detention regime.”

A mistake is made in assuming clear dates of commencement in terms of a distinct Australian approach. Australia was, after all, itself a penal colony, an experiment in distant punishment and obsessive control. It made, in turn, prisoners of the indigenous population. Brutally, its various authorities relocated individuals to missions, camps and compounds. A paternal mentality, one that has never left, took hold: we know what is best for you, be it the Bible or the dog tag. Infantilism, exploitation and dispossession thrived as mentalities.

Despite being an active participant in the post-war movement to establish an international refugee regime protecting human rights…

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We Will Drive Them to the Ground! by Leah Sellers

The seventeen year old Texas-American Girl peered seriously at the much older German Lady she had grown to Respect and Love through exchanged Letters throughout the years, and Memories of the times Frau Eckfelder had gladly Babysat her when her American Dad and Mom went out to dinner and the movies, while her Dad was stationed at the American Ramstein Air Base many years ago.

“Frau Eckfelder, I need to ask you some very important Questions, but I’m afraid of offending you,” Cheyenne said earnestly.
farm01_400_01Frau Eckfelder stared for a moment at the Young Teenage Girl sitting across from her at the kitchen table through her sturdy glasses and replied, “Let me hear your Questions, Cheyenne. I will determine whether or not I can adequately Answer them for you.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Cheyenne said as she nervously wiggled in her hand carved wooden chair, and strove to sit up straight.

“Frau Eckfelder, you need to know that Mom did not want me asking you these Questions. I am going against her wishes.”

Frau Eckfelder’s facial expression did not change. “Go ahead, Child.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Cheyenne said quietly. “Frau Eckfelder, first of all, I need you to know that I Love and Respect you tremendously, and that’s one of the main reasons that these Questions are so hard for me to ask you, and yet so hard not to.”

“Yes, go on,” Frau Eckfelder said gently.

“Frau Eckfelder, how could someone as Good and as Intelligent as you are have supported the Nazi Regime ? How could you follow someone like Hitler ?”

“I’ve been to your Lutheran Church with you and your Son and Daughter’s Families. I know that you truly Believe in the Teachings of Jesus Christ. That most of the folks who decided to follow Hitler and his Hateful Regime went to the same Christian Church that y’all do.”

“Yes, that is true, Cheyenne. And what you are asking is indeed a very difficult thing to hear and to think about. But it is true nonetheless,” Frau Eckfelder admitted with a small sigh.

“However, I understand why it is important for you to ask me these things. So, I will do my best to answer them.”

“Mom told me that you lost your Husband a couple of days after the War was declared over, because the area he was killed in had not heard that the War was over yet.”

“That is true,” Frau Eckfelder said sadly.

“Why would a Good Man like your Husband fight for the Nazis ?” Cheyenne asked. “Please, explain that to me.”

“Cheyenne, they were very difficult times. By the time everyone who would have opposed Hitler finally woke up to what was actually happening within our Country, it was too late,” Frau Eckfelder said slowly.

“To oppose Hitler made you an Outcast. Those who did were harassed. They had their businesses ransacked and burned down. Their houses ransacked and burned. They were spit upon and shunned by everyone privately and publicly.”

“Those who did it publicly were putting on a Big Show for EveryOne else to see so that they ThemSelves would not be thought of as a Traitor to Germany.”

“Eventually the Protesters and Dissenters were jailed, threatened, tortured and some were even murdered. Some were shot outright in the streets. Especially when the Crimes against the Jews and Other Immigrants became more frequent and violent in nature.”

“People, like myself and my Beloved Friedrich, became to afraid to oppose Hitler and his Followers,” Frau Eckfelder said sadly. “And as a result, Germany fell under his Evil Spell, and marched to War.”

“But how could such an Educated and Civilized Society do such a thing, Frau Eckfelder ?

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Libya: The blitzkreig breaks down: Negotiations Needed by Rene Wadlow

Dozens of people were killed in an air raid on 3 July 2019 on a detention center holding migrants in a camp at Tajoura, a suburb of Tripoli according to the U.N. Support Mission in Libya. Most of those killed and wounded were Africans from Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia who had hoped to reach Europe but were blocked in Libya. Others held in the detention center had been returned to Libya, arrested trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. 

Ilybi01_400n 2018, some 15,000 persons were intercepted on boats at sea and returned to Libya, placed in detention centers without charge and with no date set for release. The detention centers are officially under the control of the Government of National Accord’s Department for Combating Illegal Migration. In practice, most of the detention centers are controlled by militias. The former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the conditions in these detention centers as “an outrage to the conscience of humanity.”

Since the outbreak of armed conflict on the outskirts of Tripoli on 3 April 2019, many persons have been killed or wounded in what General Khalifa Hifter hoped would be a blitzkreig advance. He badly underestimated the degree of military response that he would meet from the militias loyal to the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Since the blitzkreig bogged down, in the absence of a ceasefire, the humanitarian situation is dramatically degenerating.

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Detention Centers are Part of America’s Dark History by George Cassidy Payne

As much as I am personally sickened by President Trump’s handling of the border crisis, historically speaking, his draconian policies are far from unprecedented. Shamefully, confining a specific ethnic group in detention centers appears to be as American as eating a hot dog at a baseball game on the 4th of July.

dete01_400The first substantial U.S. detention program began in 1838 under the auspices of President Martin Van Buren, who ordered the U.S. Army to enforce the Treaty of New Echota (essentially an Indian removal treaty). Marshaling the manpower of over 7,000 soldiers, General Winfield Scott was charged with evicting the Cherokee nation from their tribal lands in the south and forcing them to trek 1,200 miles west to reservations in Oklahoma. Before the men, women, and children were sent on the “Trail of Tears”, they were detained in six detention centers called “emigration depots.” These forts existed in North Carolina, as well as Chattanooga, Tennessee and Fort Payne, Alabama.

During the American Civil War, thousands of freed slaves from the plantations were recaptured by the Union army and put into hard labor camps. Women and children were locked away in these camps and left to die from starvation and smallpox. According to some researchers, over 20,000 emancipated slaves were killed in these makeshift concentration camps. (The most infamous of these was established in Natchez, Mississippi and was called the Devil’s Punchbowl because it was located at the bottom of a cavernous pit with trees located on the bluffs above.)

Nearly a half-century later, at the apex of the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson, fearing the subversive potential of Germans and German Americans, set up two internment camps in Hot Springs, N.C., and Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Codifying the president’s fears, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer decreed that “All aliens interned by the government are regarded as enemies, and their property is treated accordingly.”

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, this official policy of exclusion was expanded to target Japanese and Americans of Japanese descent. Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, which allowed the military to designate areas “from which any or all persons may be excluded.” The groundwork for this Executive Order was firmly planted when the 1940 census introduced a new question. It required that all respondents include their ethnicity. Also in 1940, a new law was passed so that all aliens over the age of 14 had to be registered.

These extreme measures were followed by perhaps the single most unconstitutional order ever delivered in our nation’s history, namely, the Emergency Detention Act of 1950. Otherwise known as the McCarran Internal  Security Act, this provision authorized the construction of six concentration camps in 1952 in the event that the U.S. government declare a state of emergency. Rather than Indians, Germans, and the Japanese, these camps were intended to hold communists, anti-war activists, and other dissidents. Among other disturbing components, the Act required that the President, in an emergency, assume the right to arrest and detain persons who he believed might engage in espionage or sabotage. It also created a Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB) to effectively monitor the finances and activities of millions of Americans.

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The Special Branch and the Malaysian Deep State by Murray Hunter

The Special Branch and the Malaysian Deep State
If Malaysia aspires to be a democracy then the Special Branch is out of control

Malaysia’s Special Branch, a secretive division within the Royal Malaysian Police force (PDRM), has functioned as one of the country’s most covert units, or did until earlier this year, when the human rights NGO Suhakam accused it of being behind the disappearance of two social activists, Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh.

malyapoli01The new Director General of Police, Absul Hamid Bador, denies the accusation, claiming that the unit has no operational capabilities. Nonetheless, the accusation shines a light on a shadowy organization that had its beginnings as an intelligence unit established by the British after WWII to primarily gather human intelligence (HUMINT) on the communist insurgency throughout North Borneo and Malaya as well as spying to counter the growing Communist influence as well as watching the Singaporean trade union and political movements. A third important task was to undertake surveillance and infiltrate the Chinese triads operating in the towns throughout Malaya.

As a colonial creation, it has never been legitimized by act of Parliament, It has, no public charter, and reports neither to the National Parliament or the executive. It became an arm of the police organizational structure with a director who reported to the Director General of Police (IGP). The only indication of its mission and objectives are on the police website, stating that it is“responsible for collecting and processing security intelligence to preserve the law and order of the public and maintain Malaysia’s peace and security.”

Today it conducts surveillance, intelligence gathering, and infiltrations that span all aspects of Malaysian society including religious organizations, mosques, churches, and temples, Chinese schools, universities, the state and federal civil services, government agencies, local government, trade unions, NGOs, media organizations, social activists, and even Royal households.

Special Branch attends many public gatherings, press conferences, and events where there are people of interest. Both opposition and government members of parliament are kept under surveillance. It has expanded from just utilising HUMINT gathering and now utilizes all the tools of modern electronic intelligence gathering, with sophisticated cyber abilities.

A former officer who wants to remain anonymous told Asia Sentinel writer that during the first Mahathir era in the 1990s, his responsibility was to film and photograph cabinet ministers and state chief ministers in compromising situations which could be utilized as a lever against them if necessary at some future point. The ex-officer went on to say that a number of guest rooms in hotels around Malaysia have been set up for this specific purpose, making it intriguing that recently Mohamed Azmin Ali, the former Selangor chief minister and current minister of economics, was allegedly surreptitiously filmed in a homosexual liaison by unknown actors.

The rest of the article HERE!

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Syariah Matters: The Kingdom of Brunei’s Stoning Affair by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

From time to time, celebrities recoil and, in anger, seek to march for a change to the status quo. Much of is never intended to alter much, but they can count their names among the indignant luminaries and say they tried to do something. 

The recent imposition of Syariah law in the Kingdom of Brunei, a tiny speck of territory wedged between Sabah and Sarawak, was enough to enrage George Clooney, Sir Elton John, and a few others concerned that their moral credentials might be hurt by the move.

brunei00_400In incensed words penned for Deadline, Clooney’s moral advisory noted that, “Every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery.” Clooney is also careful to pour some scorn on the sultanate. “Brunei isn’t a significant country.”

He also notes previous boycotting efforts against the kingdom for its treatment of the gay community that supposedly worked. “We cancelled a big fundraiser for the Motion Picture Retirement Home that we’d hosted at the Beverly Hills Hotel for years.” Remarkable, indeed, but for the fact that the process of imposing Syariah laws remained unimpeded.

Such exasperated notes of anger ignore the fact that the Kingdom had been engaged in amending the penal code with these Hudood laws to better reflect religious doctrine for some six years or so: the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah had made it clear in 2013 that sharp and direct laws of that sort would be introduced in due course. The country, in his words, would “have two criminal justice systems working hand in hand”.

This would duly comply with his adopted direction as defender of the faith. He had claimed that the inspiration to alter the legal system was divine, its mechanism designed to immunise the country against debauching foreign influences. “It is because of our need that Allah the Almighty, in all his generosity, has created laws for us, so that we can utilise them to obtain justice.” Arguably, another force was at play too: desperation. Oil production has fallen and reserves may run out by 2025. Deficits are also ballooning.

In May 2014, the so-called first phase of the Syariah Penal Code was implemented. In an announcement by the Sultan, “With faith and gratitude to Allah and the Almighty, I declare that tomorrow, Thursday, 1 May 2014, will see the enforcement of Syariah Law Phase One, to be followed by the other phases.” This initial stage involved fines and jail terms for indecent behaviour, a lack of attention to attending Friday prayers, and ex-nuptial pregnancies.

The state, which remains in the anachronistic embrace of an absolute, oil rich monarchy, has been run by the Sultan for over five decades in a manner that can be considered part comic and cartoonish. (James Bartholomew, in his The Richest Man in the World (1989) offers a few treats on that score.) Laws, which include such richly cruel provisions as stoning to death consenting males who have intercourse, instances of adultery, and amputation for theft, came into force on April 3. These also include 40 cane strokes for those found consenting to lesbian sex and/or a maximum of 10 years in prison and fines or jail for those who “persuade, tell or encourage” Muslim children under 18 years “to accept the teachings of religions other than Islam”.

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, through its co-chair The Hon Michael Kirby, former High Court justice of Australia, has expressed his discomfort. “It is a horror story that contemporary rulers are even considering the restoration of these shocking punishments in today’s world of the internet, science, the global response to disease and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It is an affront to universal human rights involving ‘cruel, unusual and degrading punishment’.”

In such a view, the good judge has ignored the fundamental paradox of technological development and supposedly modern advances. Each era must have its witches and superstitions. The internet, far from doing away with them, has encouraged the imagination of a few more. There are conspiracies, fantasies and a continued fear of harmful influences. Indeed, the presence of sophisticated technology and innovation is no guarantee of a merciful disposition. Ancient Rome was, at its zenith, a technological giant, yet appreciated gladiatorial combat and the feeding of pious Christians to hungry lions.

The latest iteration of the Brunei penal code is the brainchild of one of the world’s obscenely wealthy. And it exists alongside such abysmal wealth that is measured in the hotel ownerships through the Dorchester Group Ltd, aircraft, gold plated Rolls-Royces, and an assortment of other very worldly possessions.

And he remains fickle about them. At one point, the Sultan had in his possession a custom-made Boeing 727, equipped with a Jacuzzi that would, at a moment’s notice, have water pumped from the sky in a matter of seven-and-a-half seconds. As with a person who can have quite literally anything, he duly lost interest.

He also has his defenders, those who wish to see him as a cut above the rest. “It is a matter of importance that the Government and people of Britain should not be,” intoned Lord Chalfont in the late 1980s, “misled into believing that the Sultan is a polygamous, profligate oriental potentate buying hotels as other people buy video cassettes and engaging with dubious associates in erratic financial transactions”.

With any dogmatic, brutal code, inconsistencies are bound to arise. The rulers will never reflect the laws they pass. The Sultan’s older brother, Prince Jefri Bolkiah, owner of a yacht by the name of Tits and two tenders by the names of Nipple 1 and Nipple 2, is a noted womaniser (and, it would seem, enslaver of women, with several claiming they were kept in that virtual state). In terms of the filthy lucre, he is said to have embezzled some $15bn worth from a sovereign-wealth fund. He has since agreed to make some restitution. He is, in short, a leech, and derives pleasure from it.

With such creatures, the code seems at odds. It is theatre, grand and distant, with regulations imposed from above, receiving the rubber stamp of consent from below. Pure and sometimes sincere credulity, where it exists, is a powerful thing indeed.

Besides, goes one particular sentiment, these latest impositions, at least the most savage ones, may never actually be enforced. The death penalty, despite being on the books, was last carried out in 1957 when the state was still a British protectorate. The onus of proof for stoning is onerous – the need for four witnesses. There are exemptions and exceptions. But history shows that moral righteousness is rather easy to satisfy when it comes to finding fault. Witness evidence can be mysteriously found; circumstances can be invented. In times of desperation, cruel laws tend to be enforced.

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