Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Human Rights in North Korea - An Update on the Campaign

Since sending the letter outlining my concern over human rights abuses in North Korea to all Queensland Parliamentarians I have been eagerly awaiting the responses and good news about what Australia is doing and some promised action. I can only assume that everyone I wrote to has, thus far, been too busy working on my concerns to have replied. That is except for Senator Trood and Senator Santoro who have both responded to my letter. Kudos to both of them for doing so.

Senator Trood responded very promptly to my letter via email saying that it was received and that he also shared my concerns on North Korea's human rights situation. The email also said that he would be in touch again soon with more information on the issue. I am still keenly waiting for that information.

Senator Santoro sent a letter (received today) which enclosed a copy of a letter he received from the Hon Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs in response to my letter, which the Senator kindly shared with the Minister. I'll take the liberty to quote the body of the letter from the Minister:
The Australian Government views human rights as an inseparable part of Australia's overall foreign policy approach, both because the treatment of individuals is in itself a matter of concern to Australians and because protecting human rights underpins Australia's broader security and economic interests.

The Australian government shares [Ms Kathreb's] concerns regarding human rights abuses in the DPRK. Since diplomatic relations were resumed with the DPRK in May 2000, we have on many occasions conveyed our concerns to the DPRK Government regarding human rights. During my visits to the DPRK in November 2000 and August 2004, I personally urged North Korea to comply with international human rights standards. Concerns about the DPRK's human rights record were also raised during viits to North Korea by senior Australian Government officials in February 2003, February 2004 and April 2004. In April 2004 and 2005, Australia co-sponsored a resolution carried by the UN Commission on Human Rights regarding the human rights situation in the DPRK. Furthermore, in January 2005, we urged the DPRK to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on the DPRK (Vitit Muntarbhorn) to visit Pyongyang.

The DPRK continues to face an ongoing humanitarian crisis, and Australia has contributed $53.4 million to UN humanitarian appeals since 1995-96. We also work actively to resolve the DPRK nuclear issue in part because a solution would allow increased engagement by the DPRK with the international community, leading to pressure for greater progress on human rights issues.

The Australian Government will continue to underline its concern to North Korea about the human rights situation in their country.
It is certainly good news to get a response and to find out new information about what Australia is doing. This is a positive step in the campaign and hopefully more responses from other recipients of the original letter will come in the near future.

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale: A Book Review
Winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in 2000 this book is fantastic. The summary on the back read as follows:
It is 1857 and the Reverend Geoffrey Wilson has set out for Tasmania, hoping to find the true site of the Garden of Eden. But the journey is turning out to be less than straightforward - dissent is growing between him and sinister racial-theorist Dr. Potter, and unknown to both, the ship they have hurriedly chartered is in fact a Manx smuggling vessel, fleeing British Customs. In Tasmania the aboriginal people have been fighting a desperate battle against British invaders, and, as the passengers will discover, the island is now far from being an earthly paradise...
That gives an idea of the setting at least. The strength of the book, as I saw it, lay in the author's ability to balance great humor with the very unfortunate and regrettable conditions of Tasmania in the years surrounding the extinction of Tasmanian aborigines. Of course this is fiction and not an accurate history on that horrible spot of British/White Australian history. And it is through the racist Dr. Potter that the book weaves in some clever ironies regarding theories of race superiority which were popular at the time. But that aside the book, on the whole, was very funny, very witty and the Manx smuggling boat and its crew were the true highlight of the book.

Sky Diving
On Sunday, after a couple days of rain, the sun rose into the clear blue sky announcing the perfect day for sky diving. This was my second time to plunge 10,000 feet from the sky, the last time being some 8 years prior. Second time round was WAY better than the first time and I think this is because, once you know what to expect, you can relax a little and concentrate more on enjoying yourself. This time I also got to pull the parachute chord myself and we did some spins and turns on the way down which was absolutely fantastic.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui