The Special Court for Sierra Leone has found Charles Taylor guilty of aiding, abetting and planning serious crimes after a five year trial. Taylor is the first former head of state to be found guilty by an international court since the Nuremberg trials sentenced Karl Doenitz to 10 years imprisonment in 1946. The trial was significant as Taylor failed to quash the charges on the basis he was head of state at the time of the indictment.
Shwe and Sein are military men but the US used the promotion of the latter to press for reforms. In return the US would ease crippling sanctions and urge its allies to do the same. Sein released Suu Kyi from house arrest and released political prisoners in exchange for diplomatic relations. Sein gave his first foreign interview in January to the Washington Post and said they not only wanted to engage with the NLD but also with the 11 ethnic groups Burma was at war with. Sein brought up the constitution to defend the right of the president to appoint the commander in chief of the armed forces. But Wapo did not follow up with a question of the validity of that constitution.
The Governor of Queensland Penelope Wensley AC was in Roma and Mitchell this weekend and I caught up with her in both towns. The Governor met flood victims though her visit was organised off the back of an art gallery exhibition opening in Roma last night. The Governor is patron of 120 organisations one of which is Royal Queensland Art Society. Brisbane husband and wife artist team Joan and Len Cooper are holding the exhibition in Roma as they also celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and invited the Governor and her husband Stuart McCosker to attend.
Governor Wensley noted Roma was celebrating its sesquicentenary. Founded on the site of three pubs in 1862, it is 150 years old this year. It was one of the first towns to be gazetted after Queensland separated from NSW and the town gained its name from the wife of Queensland’s First Governor Lady Diamantina Bowen (nee Roma). In Wensley’s speech it was Bowen’s wife she identified most with, not Queensland’s First Governor.
The young Contessa Diamantina di Roma was born on the Greek Ionian island of Zante near Corfu in 1833. Corfu had briefly been in French hands during the Napoleonic era but by the time of Roma’s birth her aristocratic Venetian family ruled Corfu for Britain. Her mother was Contessa Orsola, née di Balsamo and her father Conte Giorgio-Candiano Roma was president of the Ionian Senate and known to Queen Victoria who appointed him poet laureate.
George Ferguson Bowen was a protestant Irishman educated at Oxford and served briefly in the Navy. In 1854 he was made chief secretary to the government of the Ionian Islands, where he met Diamantina. They married in April 1856 and they stayed on Corfu until 1859. That year Queensland broke free from NSW and Bowen was called by his country to serve as first Governor. Lady Bowen headed to unfamiliar territory but was made immediately welcome by 4000 people on the Brisbane docks waving British and Greek flags.
The colony of Queensland was officially declared on Saturday, 10 December 1859. Two days later there was a function for the new Governor and his wife at the Botanic Gardens. Bowen remained Governor of Queensland for eight years, an occasionally unpopular interventionist. The colony began with debts after NSW closed down all its Queensland bank accounts and he had to create a civil service from scratch. It didn’t help his politicians were naive. Robert Herbert had arrived as Bowen’s private secretary and was just 28 when he became Queensland’s first premier.
But Queensland would thrive as did the Bowens. Without the demands of office, Roma was extremely popular. Governor Wensley said despite her privileged upbringing in Greece, Lady Bowen loved Queensland. She felt instantly at home in the climate and brought a sense of nobility and grace lacking in the young rough and tumble colony. Three of her six children were born in Brisbane. She was active in social welfare and patron of many charitable societies. Her daughter, also Diamantina, married a Queensland grazier. Bowen and his wife later served in New Zealand, Victoria, Mauritius and Hong Kong before retiring to Britain.
Twenty-three more governors of Queensland followed Bowen before Wensley took over in July 2008. A distinguished diplomat, she was appointed after predecessor Quentin Bryce became Governor-General of Australia. Penelope Wensley was a country girl born in Toowoomba in 1946. She joined the Australian Foreign Service in 1968 – the only woman selected in an intake of 19.
Wensley had a stellar diplomatic career across the world following in Bowen’s footsteps as Consul-General in Hong Kong. She helped put together the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Convention to combat Drought and Desertification. She is keenly interested in humanitarian and human rights issues, women’s rights, and environmental and sustainable development. When she told Roma and Mitchell flood victims this weekend she would act as an advocate for them with the new State Government, it was easy to believe her.
Bernard Keane called Brown’s career a third party triumph. Keane said Brown went from being the only Green in parliament between 1998 to 2001 to the leader of nine senators in 2010 with a vote of 13 per cent. “At a time when politics is increasingly professionalised and parties are pushing younger, less experienced people into senior positions, Brown was a traditional conviction politician, forthright in attacking the most sacred of cows in Australian public policy on economics, the media and foreign policy,” Keane said.
But it wasn’t Murdoch’s papers that forced Brown out; it was his own sense of the need for party renewal. It is not quite generational change. New leader Christine Milne will be 59 next month. Milne followed Brown into the Tasmanian Green movement, then the State Parliament, then Canberra and now the leadership. She is determined to put a new stamp on the party, talking today of the need to appeal to ““progressive business”. With her rural background, she said the Greens must also appeal to rural and regional voters.
As someone who now lives in a rural area, I know this will be a mighty challenge despite obvious synergies. Rural people and the Greens claim to love the land, but see stewardship of it in different ways. Most rural people are suspicious of the Greens as a city-based organisation with little knowledge or empathy about how country folk live their lives. The Greens don’t have any organisation or presence in the bush. They also treat country voters with contempt by placing people in elections that don’t live in or even visit the constituency or cannot be bothered to talk to local media. Greens Warrego candidate Graeme Maizey in the recent Queensland election was rewarded for his lack of engagement with just 2% of the vote.
Perhaps Milne can draw on the work of another Queensland template. Former Queensland Green senate candidate Drew Hutton is now working closely with Queensland farmers as president of the Lock the Gate Alliance against the coal seam gas industry. The Alliance is a national group of over 120 community, industry and environmental groups and over 1000 supporters concerned with “the devastating impact that certain inadequately assessed and inadequately-regulated fossil fuel extraction industries are having on our short and long term physical, social, environmental and economic wellbeing.”
The Alliance is likely to appeal to Milne as she seeks to grow the party towards its next stage of evolution. Brown has achieved much since starting the Greens from the ashes of the United Tasmania Party culminating with the election of Adam Bandt and the agreement with Labor in 2010. But as he said today “we don’t just want to keep the so-and-sos honest, we want to replace them.” Outright power is still a long way away for a party that polls in the low teens. Their biggest vote is among young people but as Pollytics analysed in 2009, it is a volatile demographic. If Milne can somehow reach across the suspicious rural divide, there may well be room for renewal.
Matters worsened in 2010 after former colonial power Britain slashed $4.5m from its annual $33m aid budget when Malawi bought a $13.26 million presidential jet. Britain said aid criteria were based on three principles of government: commitment to poverty reduction, sound public financial management and human rights. Malawi relies on aid for 40 percent of its budget and the country is desperately undeveloped. Only one in 20 of Malawi’s population has access to electricity while the rest depend on charcoal for cooking and paraffin for lighting.
When Mutharika died, information minister Patricia Kaliati said Banda could not take over as head of state because she was in opposition. Strong calls from the US, EU and Britain and stopped a resistance movement to her ascension from gaining traction. One of Banda’s first actions was to sack Kaliati.
The 61-year-old Banda is no relation to Malawi’s founding president Hastings Banda who achieved independence for Nyasaland from Britain in 1963. The earlier Banda chose the name Malawi based on a corruption of Lake Maravi. Following a typical African post-colonial trajectory, Banda turned Malawi into a one party state and he became immensely wealthy. A pro-Western proxy, his power and support faded after the Cold War and by 1993 the internal pressure for democratic change was intense.
In the 1994 elections Banda was defeated by Elson Bakili Muluzi. Muluzi proved as corrupt as his predecessor and siphoned off millions from the sale of Malawi’s food reserves. Despite this Muluzi was re-elected in 1999 and tried to change the constitution to run a third time in 2004. He was frustrated by parliament, the courts and demonstrations in the street and was forced to stand aside, anointing Mutharika to replace him. Within 12 months Muluzi was apologising for his choice of successor and aimed to run in 2009.
But an anti-corruption investigation in 2008 crippled his campaign and the country’s Electoral Commission and the courts combined to stop him from running again. Mutharika was at the height of his powers having overseen an increase in agricultural production. But the subsidies Mutharika paid to lift harvests could not be sustained after Britain cut its aid budget.
Joyce Banda was one of Mutharika’s earliest ministerial appointments. A single mother and refugee from a violent marriage, she ran several successful businesses before entering parliament in 2004. She proved her mettle rising to become Foreign Affairs minister after just two years in office. She was made deputy for the 2009 election but felt betrayed after Mutharika endorsed his brother as successor.
Peter Mutharika now becomes crucial as Banda attempts to establish her presidential credentials. Mutharika is relatively new to Malawi politics having lived in the US for decades as a law teacher. He congratulated Banda on her appointment but is likely to be her biggest issue as he becomes DPP leader.
Mutharika’s brother’s death was not greatly mourned. As Al Jazeera said, many of Malawi’s 13 million people saw him as an autocrat responsible for an economic crisis. Fixing Malawi’s flailing economy presents a great challenge to Banda. There is plenty of time between now and 2014 for her to become unpopular allowing Mutharika an easy run at bringing the leadership back into the family.
I just had time to lean back out of the way and the wheels went over my foot. It also went over my camera bag but somehow did not smash the lens. A little surprised but otherwise unhurt, I turned towards the goat and rider which trundled its way back on track. The goat was feisty but hardly distressed and there was no other damage done.
Animal Lib has been concentrating on northern NSW and has been successful in closing down three goat races. Bundarra had to end its goat race due to adverse publicity. Lightning Ridge has also replaced its Easter goat race with a big dig for opals in the main street. The last straw was a Today Tonight report of 21 October 2011 which was a grab of selected crashes at a NSW country meet in Woolbrook. The Channel Seven report appealed to “think of the children” mentality while also making itself the story. The footage showed safety and wellbeing could be improved at Woolbrook (there was no examples of pulling goats by the horns in Roma). But the report did not prove Animal Liberation’s claim it was “barbaric and cruel”.
However the taint of such publicity is now affecting Roma. One of the major Easter in the Country sponsors is threatening to pull out because of the goats. Easter in the Country is as a not for profit organisation. Unpaid volunteers spend 12 months getting ready for the next event and rely almost totally on sponsorship. They get little financial support from Council (mostly in kind) but bring a lot of tourist dollars to Roma and the region.
The Easter in the Country committee knows the goat races are a drawcard and believes its goats are treated safely and humanely. I saw no evidence to the contrary today (my careless moment aside). Yet they cannot deliver a festival without sponsorship and unless a generous patron can be found that does not believe goat racing is cruel, the practice is unlikely to continue in 2013.
The sponsors who don’t condone goat racing are hypocrites. Animal welfare is not their primary concern. If it was they would also have objected to other Easter in the Country events such as horse racing, bull ride and rodeo. The real reason is possible negative public relations coming from the association between the company and a national media story about cruelty.
Perhaps the future will prove me wrong and goat racing will go the way of bear baiting and fox hunting, despite our collective appetite for animal sports. Seeking a halfway house, Roma could perhaps take its solution from overseas. London has its annual Oxford versus Cambridge goat race, but these goats fly solo, unencumbered with carts or riders. Oxford lost last year due to its goat slowing down to do a poo. Oxford apparently gained such revenge when it won the inaugural stoat race. I hope no-one tells Animal Liberation.