Refugees and Rebels: Indonesian Exiles in Wartime Australia, by Jan Lingard (Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2008)
Jan Lingard’s book, Refugees and Rebels – Indonesian Exiles in Wartime Australiais a humane, interesting, informative and readable book. Every person interested in the history of the Australian and/or Indonesian people should read this book. It should be on the reading lists of high school and university history of Australia courses. The book describes and analyses the experiences of 5000s Indonesians living, working and engaging in political struggle in both cities and country towns in Australia between 1942 and 1947, the period of Japanese occupation of their country and the beginning of the armed struggle for Indonesian independence which started soon after the proclamation of Independence on August 17, 1945.
It was a less than ordinary building on an ordinary road, an unattractive street despite the trees that lined it. Yes, it was an unattractive avenue adorned with buildings constructed on the cheap and for function only. Cables and wires of all kinds were strung from pole to pole, and building to building, a tangled mess, making even looking up at the sky unattractive. Around the trees was asphalt and concrete and that stretched out across six lanes, along which racket making and black smoke spewing vehicles traveled. There were not even jeepneys on this road, which at least would have added splashes of colour and trashy pictures to the narrow panorama of asphalt and cement and cables and grey, square buildings. The building was an embassy in Manila so it was fronted with a high iron fence of slats. It had a narrow and guarded gate as an entrance. A few trees jutted above the fence. It seemed a low building, square and flat and unattractive like the street. The hotel across the street and along a few buildings was also very plain, although the large glass panes that ran along the front marked it off from the cement and brick of the other buildings. Inside it was also plain, although with carpeted swirling stairs up to the first floor. The first floor was mainly function rooms, carpeted with just a few cream coloured upholstered sofa chairs in the corners. There were no functions on so the area was quiet. And here also the wall facing out onto to the street was made of glass. Continue reading “THE PHILIPPINES: “Seconds lost in Manila, 4 July, 1987””
Kerry Vernon has written a new article on the current mistreatment of people trying to reach Australiaby boat via Indonesia hoping to apply for residence in Australia as refugees. She starts by saying:
“Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, diverted from entering Australia and put on the Australian Customs ship Oceanic Viking, had been refusing food for two days and refusing to leave the ship at Kijang for the Indonesian immigration detention prison, Tanjung Pinang, on Bintan Island on October 26. It had been more than a week since the 78 asylum seekers, including a sick 12-year-old girl, were put aboard the Australian ship after being intercepted by the Indonesian navy on October 11 and diverted from reaching Australia in a deal between Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The Rudd government’s offshore processing deal with Indonesia means that Canberra will provide Jakarta with at least $50 million, on top of $12 million already spent renovating and building detention centres and $7.9 million on border control management. Rudd’s refugee deals with Indonesia, and Malaysia, are under increasing scrutiny since news reports revealed that Afghan detainees in Australian-funded Tanjung Pinang detention centre have been beaten by guards. According to the ABC’s Geoff Thompson, “Some of the mostly Afghan Hazaras locked up in the detention centre have been there for between two and six months”. Afghan refugees have complained that conditions in the prison are brutal and that they are treated like animals.”
It is Friday night, 7.30pm, on Orchard Road in Singapore. The crowds are out. The wide pathways as well as the underground labyrinths linking the malls from Ngee Ann City to the new boringly glitzy, pseudo glamorous Ion are busy with people. Office workers are window shopping and looking for something to eat – the food courts are crazily busy. Young women in fashionably sexy clothes right out of the glamorous window displays of the franchised fashion shops make their way around on the arm of their escort. Others, more tired as well as more casually dressed, buy some fried snacks at one of the stalls. Some just sit and rest on the concrete benches on the foot path.
Last night, here in Singapore, I went to the cinema to watch Michael Moore’s latest film: Capitalism: a love story. I had read that morning a very negative review of the film in the Straits Times newspaper, the island’s man daily newspaper, owned by a government linked corporation. Apart from the reviewer’s frustrations with Moore’s flamboyant theatrical style – his trademark, in fact – the review was ultimately a political rejection of Moore’s approach. For Moore, said the reviewer, viewed “capitalism as an evil, and an evil cannot be regulated”. But, went the rejoinder, there are many evils in the world that have been successfully regulated: “abortion, gambling, prostitution”. So much for the hegemonic Singapore viewpoint.
Capitalism: a love story is a strong but complicated and sometimes confusing film. Like all of Moore’s films his basic appeal is to sentiment, to the emotions of those Americans who have been exploited or oppressed or those who are angry that such injustice exists. The film moves through a series of examples of such injustice: grossly underpaid men and women piloting jet passenger planes, families being evicted from houses that they have lived in for decades, men and women thrown out of work, employees sacked as their factory closes down but without being paid the wages and redundancy payments they are owed, poor people stranded by the Katrina catastrophe and so on. These cases are movingly presented and do indeed reinforce the sentiments of both compassion and anger that any humane person feels.