a spark from the fire

So I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus… In between end-of-year exams, a holiday to Hawaii, and other general life interruptions, I managed to forget about this baby: my blog!

Since my last post, I have somewhat entered another phase of this wonderful world of web/social networking/information gathering/procrastination… no, I haven’t reactivated my myspace account. But I have just joined Twitter! Hurray, something else to distract me from essays on Iraq wars and US Foreign Policy…

I’m not all that savvy at the ol’ Twitter world yet. I’ve worked out how to ‘follow’ (following 23 twitterers so far), and only have six fellow twitterers following me – only one of who I actually know, lol! Have only tweeted twice so far – I figure there’s not much point if no one’s following me!! And as far as the whole ‘tweeting’ back to someone… well, I don’t really get that yet…

But I’ll keep playing and eventually I’m sure I’ll work it out. Beats trying to write this assignment on media systems anyway.

Until next time (and hopefully I’ll have something of substance to write then)…

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I woke up to the news that the three Bali bombers had been executed by firing squad overnight. Given that I am strongly opposed to the Death Penalty in ANY case, the news of this last execution made me feel sick to my stomach – to say the least. Suffice to say, this does not mean I condone terrorism or the acts of the bombers; but in line with universal human rights, I do not concur with this form of punishment. Sure, lock them up and throw away the key. But how does an eye for an eye, a life for a life, avenge the actions of the condemned?

I have read hundreds of articles pertaining to the Bali bombers, but this one stood out to me. It was taken from the Herald Sun on 7 November, a day before the executions. It represents my views completely. Well done, Julian McMahon.

Silence from our leaders is not good enough

Where are our leaders? What is happening? In the next day or two, three men are going to be executed by our nearest neighbor, Indonesia. The men deserve severe punishment. But why are Australian leaders, Federal, State, religious and community, being so quiet? Not one voice is speaking up, saying the men should not be executed.

It is too late to speak up after the executions. We are not weak. We are not aggressive. We are friends with Indonesia. We have principles and ideals and should speak up. If principles are worth anything, lets defend them even though its hard. 

Our leaders are not at liberty to stay silent and pretend that these executions are ok. With other Australian lawyers, I have clients in Asia on death row. 

We know that the Asian media and politicians demand consistency from us. If we ignore these executions which obviously affect us as a nation, while later demanding the right to save Australians, we lose legitimacy. 

I have read every name at the Bali memorial. I feel deeply for those victims. Every time I go to the prison in Bali, and I was there last week, I think of my family and hope they don’t suffer such losses. 

But killing 3 more people to avenge those already killed does not honour those names carved in granite. It adds nothing. To dignify their names, we should call for humane but severe punishment – a life in prison, without access to journalists, removed from society. That is always enough punishment. 

I walked away from Van Nguyen’s execution knowing that it was an exercise in futility – that dreadful sense of a person being destroyed, the destruction planned for, practiced over and over, pointless. 
To see his mother, his brother, their friends at the minute of their loved one hanging is to realize that pre planned killing is fundamentally backward. Making people suffer is not what we as a nation are about, even if they deserve it. The suffering of victims does not go away, no one is brought back. We just have another corpse. Resorting to premeditated ritualized killing, and pretending vengeance or disgust or hatred or contempt is justice, is in truth failure. 

Our leaders, State and Federal, and religious, oppose the death penalty. Well, let them say so when its hard, like this Bali bombers case. The region is watching. At law, our country has signed up to international covenants and protocols opposing the death penalty and calling for its abolition everywhere. 

Last December at the United Nations, Australia strongly opposed the death penalty calling for an international moratorium. Last week on Melbourne radio the Prime Minister confirmed his personal and party’s long standing universal opposition to the death penalty. 

If an Australian was about to be executed in Asia, these policy positions would be proudly proclaimed, and relied upon as a strategy to save his or her life. We do not expect our political and community leaders to jump up and down at every execution everywhere.

But the execution of the Bali bombers, like many other executions including of Australians, calls for more than silence. As neighbours and victims and people affected, we have rights and duties. As investigators who helped catch the criminals, we have a say. It will be too late to speak out once the prisoners are shot. 
 


Julian McMahon is a barrister. He has represented numerous people on death row, including Van Nguyen in Singapore, George Forbes and others in Sudan, and works with a number of Melbourne barristers defending Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan from the Bali 9.

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,24616008-5000117,00.html

We as a society don’t talk about Human Rights enough. It’s rarely in the news, and when it is, it’s usually a case that’s huge – thus warranting some media attention. But there are small and disturbing cases happening all the time. Why aren’t they in the news? Are they not ‘newsy’ enough? And what type of stories do we have to hear before we actually stand up and say ‘enough is enough’? Below is a story from ABC News. Atrocities like this happen every day, somewhere in the world. And if the mainstream media isn’t going to alert us to these things, how are we supposed to know about them, let alone do something.

13yo ‘adulterer’ stoned to death: Amnesty

The human rights group Amnesty International says a girl stoned to death in southern Somalia earlier this week was only 13 years old. Amnesty says the girl was convicted of adultery after complaining that three men had raped her. She was buried up to her neck and stoned to death in a crowded stadium in the Somali city of Kismayo.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/11/02/2407869.htm

As a member of, and regular donator to Amnesty International Australia (AIA), I can proudly say I am a ‘Human Rights Defender’. AIA is part of the global movement defending human rights and dignity working with people in throughout the world to demand respect for human rights and protect people facing abuse. To do this, they mobilise people, campaign, conduct research and raise money for our work. AIA promotes a culture where human rights are embraced, valued and protected.

Amnesty International is concerned solely with the impartial protection of human rights. If the above story affected you in any way, then don’t just sit there and think ‘it’s terrible, but what can I do about it?’.

Act now. Join Amnesty.

A colleague at work recently asked me about my thoughts on referencing. Given that I am a student, most would assume that I don’t much like it, because it is a hassle – especially at 2.00am the night before an essay is due. But being the stickler for rules and regulations (doing things the ‘proper’ way), I have to say I disagree. I like referencing. Why? You ask.

Here’s why:

  1. Referencing strengthens the writer’s voice/argument – especially in academic or report writing;
  2. It shows the reader that you have done your research and you know what you are talking about – particularly if you are able to reference an idea and then affirm or refute the idea based on your own reasoning;
  3. Pertains to the ethics of communication;
  4. Acknowledges the contribution of other scholars to the topic/research;
  5. Enables the reader to cross reference, locate and check your sources – Similar to adding a hyperlink in a blog; and
  6. It avoids plagiarism.

The last point I make is a key principle when considering the art of writing and arguing. Not only is plagiarism considered a serious offence in the big, bad world of university studies, I think it is also a fundamental moral issue. When you use someone else’s ideas in your writing, you really shouldn’t pass them off as your own. I know I wouldn’t appreciate it – especially if I had written something profound (yet to happen).

I then proceeded to tell my work colleague that not only am I a fan of referencing, but I have a favourite style. Kind of like how I have a favourite style of clothing, hairstyle, make-up… hmm… anyway, I digress.

Modified Harvard is my style of choice. I prefer it for a few reasons, primarily because it is an in-text style (no footnotes which interrupt reading flow having to look down the page to see the reference), and it’s simple – easy to use, read and follow. I back this argument up with the fact that last semester in Academic Writing, for our final exam we were expected to Harvard reference. Marks were lost if we didn’t. Now if I can reference in an exam (no, it wasn’t open book), then how hard can it be?

In summary, I think referencing is an important aspect of writing, and one that I hope won’t ever fall off the radar – especially with new and evolving communications technologies. Ah, but that’s a whole new blog post!

Just hours after posting on The Lemon Tree, I came across this article on Irin News website about Palestinian farmers unable to tend to their olive groves due to the Israeli barrier in the West Bank.  This article is pertinent to The Lemon Tree, and provides for a real life version on the events similar to those in the film…

ISRAEL: Palestinian farmers separated from their olive groves
NI’LIN, WEST BANK, 7 October 2008 (IRIN) – As the olive harvest gets under way in the West Bank, residents of the Palestinian town of Ni’lin say much of their land, where their trees are, is off limits because of Israel’s Barrier.According to estimates by residents, some 5,000 olive trees sit on 270 hectares between the path of the Barrier and the border of the West Bank with Israel, known as the Green Line.

http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=80785

This week was Anti-Poverty Week. Working for an NGO, I’m surrounded by the concept of poverty every day, of every week, of every year. It’s what we do, it’s what we work for. But it’s easy to get caught up in the mundane daily activities and office politics, and forget the real reasons we get up out of bed and come to work each and every day (and it’s not the salary that’s the driving force let me tell you!).

I’m ashamed to admit that I’m one of those staff members who too easily gets caught up in the arduous tasks I have to undertake in my role. But on Friday, I was once again reminded that it’s not all about me (a concept I struggle with) and to remember the bigger issues.  Friday was STAND UP day, when people from all nations, races and walks of life join together by standing up against global poverty. 

At 10.30am, more than 600 staff left their emails, computer screens, meetings and deadlines to congregate in the atrium area of the building to STAND UP and show their support, while a pledge was being read. Being amongst my colleagues, all standing up and in silence, reminded me of the unity we share and why we all attend work each day – we believe in the eradication of global poverty. I’m grateful I was given the opportunity to participate and spend a few moments in a contemplative silence. I returned to my desk and daily routine feeling more motivated than when I had started the day. And that’s what it’s all about.

I went to the movies last night to see The Lemon Tree, an Israeli film set on the West Bank border of Israel and Palestinian land. Palestinian widow, Salma’s new neighbour is the Israeli defence minister who’s security advisors concur that Salma’s lemon grove is a direct threat to the minister’s security, given the political climate between these two communities.  The film is essentially Salma’s story and her fight against the Israeli judicial system to keep her beloved Lemon Groves.

Given that I have just completed a semester of Middle Eastern politics, I thought this movie would be an interesting human insight to the complexities of the Israeli/Palestinian peace and political issues – ones that Middle Eastern affairs are consumed with, and have been for thousands of years.

Although rather slow, and with subtitles (I’d love to pretend I’m cultured and enjoy foreign films with subtitles but really, I get so caught up in the images on the screen that I forget to read them and then struggle to keep up with what’s being said!), it’s a lovely film that draws on many emotions.  Interestingly, both sides of the issue are played out respectfully to each community – it left me not only feeling for Salma and all that the Palestinian people have been though, but also the realisation that the Israeli people are fearful for their lives.  Through Mira (the defence minister’s wife), it’s obvious that despite the political, social and cultural differences between these communities, their constituents share the same hopes, fears and feelings.

Certainly gave me some motivation to get back to the books and keep studying for that imminent politics exam…!


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  • Steve Hopkins: Hey Jac! So, come on then...what's your twitter name? That way, more of us can follow along. Cheers! Steve
  • Tailal Masood: No one has the right to kill any person for any anything. In such bombings the people who are killed are always those who have nothing to do with
  • jacqueliehanafie: Thanks for the comment, Tony. Loved your pun on the 'eye for an eye' analogy too. I should say, too, that my views on the death penalty - particula

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