by David Muller
"The objective of human rights policy should be to make a difference on human rights, not to posture", said a major Australian foreign policy paper entitled In The National Interest on Thursday aimed at repudiating race row politician Pauline Hanson by declaring racial tolerance vital for its ties with Asia.
The Australian policy paper stands in contrast to British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook's current neocolonial lecture tour of south east asian countres on the need to respect the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Cook's statements that all member states of the United Nations are obliged to stick to the declaration on human rights is empty rhetoric as UN implementation pacts on political, social and economic rights linked to the declaration have not yet been ratified by some member countries like the United States.
Yesterday Malaysian Foreign Minister Abdullah Badawi said that human rights were of great concern to Kuala Lumpur, each country had a unique way of deal with its own problems`` I think in human rights, it is very difficult to have one common yardstick that is universally applicable,'' Abdullah told reporters ``It's important to know that if you're dealing in a Malaysian situation, (it) has no equivalent anywhere else. We have to deal with it in our own way, but this doesn't mean we don't regard freedom for the individual,'' he said.
Abdullah reiterated the call for a human rights update by Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammed first raised at the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial meeting in July. Mahathir has criticised the West for imposing its own values on Asian and developing countries. More recently Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said this did not mean a dilution of human rights.
Declaration of Human Rights may be fine in words but only those peoples
and nations that "have" in reality can exercise these rights while the
"havenots" do not that potential. For instance in Article 7 it states "All
are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to
equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against
any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement
to such discrimination." But only those with adequate resources can in
practice exercise that right.
Aussie gets 1997 Qadhafi prize
Associate Professor Smallwood, a prominent Queensland health worker and academic, will be recognised for her human rights work by an international award sponsored by Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi. The annual Qadhafi Award is decided by North-South, a Swiss-based NGO.
She will share the $250,000 award with five other women, won for her role as a leader in the "just struggle" of Aborigines and women. Previous winners include Nelson Mandela in 1989, Ahmed Ben Bella, former president of Algeria and US black rights activist Louis Farrakhan last year.
Professor Smallwood is an Australia award recipient, a former adviser to the Queensland health minister, sits on the health and human rights board of the Harvard School of Public Health, and was the first chairperson of the Queensland State Tripartite Forum on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health. She is also former director of nursing at the Aboriginal Hospital Hettie Perkins in Central Australia.
Since completing her Registered Nurse's training in Townsville in 1973, she has undertaken a Certificate in Midwifery, completed a Diploma in Mental Health and completed a Master of Science degree in HIV education . She is currently undertaking Ph.D. studies in the Indigenous Health area.
Since her appointment as associate professor at the University of Southern Queensland in May, 1995 she has undertaken many consultancies. These include consultant to Minister Brian Howe, Federal Department of Community Services and Health and consultant to Minister Ann Warner, Family Services Queensland Domestic Violence Council. International consultancies include Consultant on Indigenous AIDS Conference held in Vancouver, Canada, Consultant for World Health Organisation at international AIDS conferences in Texas, Honolulu and Hawaii and Consultant on HIV/AIDS in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta.
Professor Smallwood said the award was recognition of her lifetime of work in human rights. It was also an opportunity to tell the world about the injustices to Australia's indigenous people. "This is a last resort for black Australians, for human rights violations, to be put on the world political agenda," she said.
She equated the experiences of the stolen generation of Aboriginal children, nuclear testing at Mururoa and flaws in the justice system identified by a royal commission into black deaths in custody with human rights abuses elsewhere in the world.
Aboriginal leaders and activists applauded indigenous rights campaigner Gracelyn Smallwood for winning and accepting an award saying it highlighted international scrutiny of human rights in Australia.
"Best of luck to her," said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission deputy chairman Ray Robinson. "If the Libyan Government wants to come out and show something as far as human rights are concerned, as far as indigenous people in Australia are concerned, good on them."
ATSIC native title spokesman Geoff Clark said: "I don't think it demeans or devalues the award in any way because it comes from Libya. The fact that Australia chooses to sell their sheep to Libya, to continue international trade with Libya, shows . . . there (should not be) any form of guilt that's placed on Gracelyn."
Aboriginal Tasmanian lawyer Michael Mansell, who was embroiled in controversy when he visited Libya to call for sanctions against Australia in 1988, said, "If someone stands up for us and they're given some recognition by an overseas country, it lights a little candle of hope". A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said Dr. Smallwood was "at liberty to accept the prize".
Other nominees selected for the Gaddafi prize include Melchior N'Dadaye, widow of the Burundi president murdered in 1993, Melba Hernandez of Cuba, Manal Younes Abdul-Razzak of Iraq and Doreen McNally, chair of the Women of the Waterfront in Britain.
After Professor Smallwood visit to Libya to accept the award she is to embark on a lecture tour of Africa with Kuame Terer, formerly Stokely Carmichael of the Black Panther Movement.
Putting Australian human rights in spotlight
by Gracelyn Smallwood
Why would I accept an international human rights prize sponsored by Muammar Gaddafi's Libyan Government? Many people have been asking this question since the prize was offered to me last week. And it s not indigenous people who are asking-they know why I would accept the prize. They recognise that we are experiencing in our everyday lives the effects of the calamitous setbacks in indigenous affairs of the past 18 months.
When people do ask, the answer I have to give is that, while most countries are becoming less racist, Australia is on a dangerous slide and is now on the way to becoming one of the most racist countries in the world. And I'm not talking about the Australian people. I'm talking about the actions of the Australian Government.
Several years ago, I might not have accepted the prize. But any opportunity to bring attention to the issues has to be grasped Looking back, the Fraser years and then the Hawke-Keating years were years of progress in indigenous affairs, painfully slow perhaps, but progress nevertheless.
Now that there is no dialogue, now that we have effectively been cut out of the national discussion, we have to use whatever international leverage we can. Here are five fundamental reasons why I believe Australia bas slipped badly down the slide of symbolic and structural racism in the past 18 months.
First, the High Court's Wik decision did not give Aboriginal people anything. It simply stated in plain legal terms what they already had- what rights they had in terms of the very nature of pastoral leases, from the creation of these leases in the 19th century. The l0-point plan removes almost all of these rights, and also will remove some of the rights in relation to Crown land given in the 1993 Mabo legislation. This is no more and no less than taking from Aboriginal people in order to make the rich richer.
Second, there is much more to the 4-stolen generations" issue than the removal of children. This Is part of a much larger history of denial to one segment of the Australian population fundamental human rights on the basis of race - citizenship rights, rights to education and welfare, rights to own land. This system was called "protection", under which a whole people was institutionalised in the same way that criminals or mental patients are institutionalised-and on the basis of race alone. If we examine our past, this system was more complete, more rigorous and more discriminatory than apartheid ever was in practice. Much more than an apology is required. If white lives were involved, surely this would be a case for compensation.
Third, in the face of Third World conditions in health and education, funding for programmes in Aboriginal communities is being cut. Too much special treatment and ATSIC only wastes the money, say Howard and Hanson in unison. How can we say special programmes are unjustified when Aboriginal communities don't even get the ordinary programmes that other Australians get by right?
Fourth, fundamental human rights issues are simply not being addressed In this country. What progress has been made on access to justice and Aboriginal deaths in custody? Why is it that we can't sign human rights clauses in international trade agreements? The answer is that our human rights record will simply not stand up to scrutiny.
Fifth, Howard's message is that we've been overrun by the Aboriginal industry, the pendulum has swung too far in the recognition of native title rights. and that we should not have to apologise for the past or have a "black armband" version of our history. Howard's mind-set and the policies he is forcing on the Government are identical to Hanson's. The only difference is that she is naively honest. Meanwhile, the Labor Party has gone weak at the knees. There is no space left in Australian politics for an indigenous voice. This is why we have to go international now and use whatever means we can to put pressure on this Government.
So I will accept the recognition the award confers, and the international spotlight it will place on the fight for justice in Australia. After all, Nelson Mandela accepted exactly the same prize while in prison and before there was international recognition of the justness of his fight against racism.
* Associate Professor Gracelyn Smallwood is director of the Indigenous
Support Centre Kumbari-Ngyrpai Lag, University of Southern Queensland,
and a member of the Board of Public Health and Human Rights at the Harvard
School of Public Health.
In his speech accepting the award Minister Farrakhan at the time appealed to President Clinton, "Instead of blocking this prize and Brother Muammar Gadhafi from offering me aid that I might help the homeless, the poor that are sleeping under bridges in cardboard boxes... because they have no jobs and they have no hope, America should have matched that promise with a promise of her own,"the Muslim leader said. He cited the hardships America's Blacks and poor will face as a result of recent welfare reform laws, the loss of jobs to cheaper labor markets overseas, and the attack on affirmative action and entitlement programs.
Holding the Muslim Holy book, the Qur'an, Min. Farrakhan said that as a Muslim he has the right to accept the monetary gift from his Muslim brother and vowed to take his fight to the highest platform "for what we consider the mother of all court battles."
Min. Farrakhan also appealed to President Clinton to bring closure to the pain of uncertainty of the families of the victims of the Pan Am bombing. He asked Mr. Clinton to allow the two Libyan nationals accused of the crime to be tried in an international court of law, even with Scottish judges.
"The truth should come out, and whoever is guilty should be brought to justice. But this (case) should not be used as an excuse to punish the Libyan people because they love their leader and will not bow to pressure to destroy their own leadership," he said.
America's preeminent Black leader called for a halt to all terrorist activities that take innocent lives, opting instead for dialogue to settle grievances. He said that a standard should be raised to measure what a terrorist nation is and that standard should be accepted by the international community.
"If such a standard is raised, would America be able to live up that standard?" Min. Farrakhan asked. "We must expose foreign policy that is against the good of Africa, against the good of the Muslim world, against the good of the Caribbean, Central and South America.
"I am calling for an end to all terrorism and the killing of innocent people for political purposes. I am calling for the United States to sit down with Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Nigeria, Iran and Cuba to work out a just solution," he said.
Citing a phrase used by President Clinton during a speech at the recent
Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Minister Farrakhan offered to
help the President to "build a bridge" based on truth and justice between
America and these Muslim and smaller countries.
Turning dreams into reality in the desert
The 1st of September 1997 marks the first anniversary of the opening of the major stage of Libya's Great Man-Made River Project. This incredibly huge and successful water scheme is virtually unknown in the West, yet it rivals and even surpasses all our greatest development projects. The leader of the so-called advanced countries, the United States of America cannot bring itself to acknowledge Libya's Great Man-Made River. The West refuses to recognise that a small country, with a population no more than four million, can construct anything so large without borrowing a single cent from the international banks.
Up until recently, Libya's supply of water came from underground aquifers or desalination plants on the coast. Water derived from desalination or aquifers near the coast was of poor quality and sometimes undrinkable. This problem also meant that little water was available to irrigate land for agriculture, which is vital in this largely desert country.
In the 1960s during oil exploration deep in the southern Libyan desert, vast reservoirs of high quality water were discovered in the form of aquifers. The most important of these aquifers, or water bearing rock strata, were laid down during a geological time when the Mediterranean sea flowed southward to the foot of the Tibesti mountains, that are situated on Libya's border with Chad. During that period the Mediterranean sea frequently varied in level, as a result of which, various sedimentary deposits were formed.
Geological activity caused the upthrust of mountainous formations (Jabal Nefussa and Jabal Al Akhdar) and the associated downward movement formed natural underground basins. Between 38,000 and 10,000 years ago the climate of North Africa was temperate, during which time there was considerable rainfall in Libya. The excess rainfall infiltrated into porous sandstone and was trapped between layers, forming reservoirs of underground fresh-water.
In Libya there are four major underground basins, these being the Kufra basin, the Sirt basin, the Morzuk basin and the Hamada basin, the first three of which contain combined reserves of 35,000 cubic kilometres of water. These vast reserves offer almost unlimited amounts of water for the Libyan people.
The people of Libya under the guidance of their leader, Colonel Muammar Al Qadhafi, initiated a series of scientific studies on the possibility of accessing this vast ocean of fresh water. Early consideration was given to developing new agricultural projects close to the sources of the water, in the desert. However, it was realised that on the scale required to provide products for self sufficiency, a very large infrastructure organisation would be required. In addition to this, a major redistribution of the population from the coastal belt would be necessary. The alternative was to 'bring the water to the people'.
In October 1983, the Great Man-made River Authority was created and invested with the responsibility of taking water from the aquifers in the south, and conveying it by the most economical and practical means for use, predominantly for irrigation, in the Libyan coastal belt.
By 1996 the Great Man-Made River Project had reached one of its final stages, the gushing forth of sweet unpolluted water to the homes and gardens of the citizens of Libya's capital Tripoli. Louis Farrakhan, who took part in the opening ceremony of this important stage of the project, described the Great Man-Made River as "another miracle in the desert." Speaking at the inauguration ceremony to an audience that included Libyans and many foreign guests, Col. Qadhafi said the project "was the biggest answer to America... who accuse us of being concerned with terrorism."
The Great Man-Made River, as the largest water transport project ever
undertaken, has been described as the "eighth wonder of the world". It
carries more than five million cubic metres of water per day across the
desert to coastal areas, vastly increasing the amount of arable land. The
total cost of the huge project is expected to exceed $25 billion (US).
The goal of the Libyan Arab people, embodied in the Great Man-Made River project, is to make Libya a source of agricultural abundance, capable of producing adequate food and water to supply its own needs and to share with neighboring countries. In short, the River is literally Libya's 'meal ticket' to self-sufficiency.
Each pipe of the river project is buried in a trench approximately seven metres deep, excavation of which requires the removal of some 100,000 cubic metres of material each working day. Excavation is carried out by large hydraulic excavators fitted with 7.6 cubic metre buckets. Once the trench has been prepared, prestressed concrete cylinder pipes 7.5 metres long and weighing up to 80 tons are brought to the site using a fleet of some 128 specially designed transporters.
Pipes are placed in the trench using large cranes, capable of lifting up to 450 tons, and joined to the already laid pipe by pushing them into place with a bulldozer. The joint between the pipes is sealed using a rubber ring seal installed in a special groove on the end of the pipe and this joint itself sealed, both inside and outside the pipe, with cement grout. The trench is then backfilled, covering the pipe with a minimum of 2 metres of material and restoring the desert surface.
After backfilling, the pipe is adequately supported by the soil and can be hydrostatically tested. This requires the fitting of specially designed steel bulkheads at each end of the test section and filling of the line with water from wells drilled adjacent to the conveyance. Up to 8 kilometre lengths of the conveyance are tested at a time, and, after allowing adequate time for the concrete lining of the pipe to absorb water, the line is pressurised to test both the pipe and its joints.
The plant, equipment and logistical support for this project are also on a vast scale. Some 10,000 people and 4,500 pieces of equipment are employed on the work. Two thousand five hundred tons of cement per day are supplied by the Libyan Cement Company and hauled in a fleet of 127 cement tankers to the pipe plants at Brega and Sarir.
The Great Man-Made River Project is bringing water to the people and providing water for municipal, industrial and agricultural use. The strategy of the responsible Libyan authority is aimed at increasing both crop and livestock production to a level that achieves the highest possible rate of self-sufficiency and reduces dependence on imports from foreign markets to the lowest possible level. It also aims at increasing the productive capabilities of the labour force and of the capital investments in the sector, and at producing raw materials for food processing industries.
According to the writer Ali Baghdadi, "the river is a new lesson and an example in the struggle to achieve self-sufficiency, food security and true independence. No nation that depends on a foreign country to feed its people can be free. The Great River is a triumph against thirst and hunger. It is a defeat against ignorance and backwardness. It reflects the determination of Libyans to resist colonial pressure, to acquire technology, to develop, to improve their lives, and to control their own destiny in accordance with their own free will."
From New Dawn