Morrison and Shorten reveal their positions on key foreign policy questions


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While their foreign policy approaches may seem very similar, there were some significant differences.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

It might be tempting to characterise back-to-back foreign policy speeches delivered by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as the work of Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

In other words, policy prescriptions advanced by the two on challenges facing Australia in one of the most difficult foreign policy environments since the end of the Vietnam War may seem very similar.

But there are differences. These are significant and in a political sense are to be welcomed, because it is important that debate be had on how to manage these challenges.




Read more:
With Bishop gone, Morrison and Payne face significant challenges on foreign policy


What should be given ample scope is the question of Australia’s positioning vis-à-vis its cornerstone security ally, the United States, and its principal trading partner, China.

Engagement in that debate should be separated from the left-right shibboleths of whether those engaged are pro- or anti-American. Tempting though it might be for one side of politics to dust off the old wedge issue of fealty to the alliance, we need to move beyond that sterile discussion.

The foreign policy speeches delivered by Shorten and Morrison just days apart both addressed the issue of the triangular relationship between Canberra, Washington and Beijing. Both trod carefully.

In Morrison’s case, he did not seek to provide a new template for such a three-cornered relationship. Rather, he emphasised the enduring importance of the alliance and the desirability of the US remaining engaged in the Indo-Pacific.

The alliance with the United States is a choice we make about how best to pursue our security interests.

And US economic engagement is as essential to regional stability and prosperity as its security capabilities and network of alliances … A strong America – centrally engaged in the affairs of our region – is critical to Australia’s national interests.

Morrison did, however, acknowledge risks for Australia when he said it was “important that US-China relations do not become defined by confrontation”.

The period ahead will, at times, be testing but I am confident of our ability to navigate it. And once again our values and beliefs will guide us.

Morrison’s speech was heavy on “values” as a guide to Australian policy under his administration. In this regard, he might have been echoing earlier statements by Labor’s foreign policy spokeswoman, Penny Wong, who has pursued a “values” theme in her foreign policy speeches over the past several years.

Morrison and Shorten revealed different approaches to the US-Australia alliance.
AAP/EPA/David Maxwell

Shorten, on the other hand, provided more grist beyond a “values” statement about Australian priorities under a Labor administration. In the process, he edged cautiously towards a posture of greater independence from an America under Donald Trump and future presidents bound by an “America first” mindset.

Australia’s interests will obviously be different from those of the United State in some areas; our national focus is different, our relationships with our close neighbours are different, our economies have different structures.

And indeed differences in perspective and opinion are one of the many valuable qualities we bring to our alliance with the United States.

The Labor Party opposed the second Iraq war – and in view of the consequences, we were more responsible allies for doing so…

We can – and will – express any differences within the enduring framework of our close relationship.

Many Australians, including a plethora of Labor supporters, will be hoping a transactional and opportunistic Shorten lives up to this declaration.

His reference to Labor’s opposition to the Iraq war oversimplifies the party’s position, in fact.

Commendably, then leader Simon Crean decreed Labor would not support Australia’s involvement without a United Nations-sanctioned process. But there were those in the party, including then foreign policy spokesman Kevin Rudd and former leader Kim Beazley, who were squeamish about this position.

Shorten himself was not yet in parliament.

The Iraq experience, in which Crean courageously asserted an independent position on the rush to war in Iraq, should be regarded by its latter-day leaders as a template for relations with Washington.

In some respects, it proved to be Crean’s finest hour. The Iraq invasion contributed to the destabilisation of the entire Middle East. It has involved expenditures of trillions of dollars, and counting, by the US and its allies.

Among various negative consequences of the march of folly in Iraq is the emboldening of Iran and its increased ability to assert itself more widely in its region. This is a story that has far from played itself out.

Both Morrison and Shorten dwelled, as might be expected, on relations with China. Shorten was both bolder and more nuanced.

The next Labor government will not deal with China purely through the prism of worst-case assumptions about its long-term ambitions.

Pre-emptively framing China as a strategic threat isn’t a sufficient response to its role and increasing influence in our region…

We will deal with China on the basis of the actions it takes – and in our own national interests.

Shorten was both bolder and more nuanced in discussing Australia’s relationship with China.
AAP/EPA/Thomas Peter/Pool

Morrison was more matter-of-fact. This no doubt reflects to a degree that he is feeling his way in his early days as prime minister.

Australia has also a vitally important relationship with China … We are committed to deepening our comprehensive strategic partnership with China.

Of course, China is not alone in being a force of change in our world.

But China is a country that is most changing the balance of power, sometimes in ways that challenge important US interests.

Inevitably, in the period ahead, we will be navigating a higher degree of US-China strategic competition.

What can be said about the Shorten and Morrison world views is that the former’s thinking has developed further than the latter’s, as might be expected given that the Labor leader has been in the job for five years, and Morrison just a few months.

However, it is also possible to detect doctrinal differences that point to a shift in Australian foreign policy under a Shorten-led government to one where Australia seeks to enlarge its room for manoeuvre in a region undergoing wrenching change.

Inevitably, this is leading to a change in tone. Whether this also results in a repositioning of Australian policy remains to be seen.




Read more:
Turnbull pushes the ‘reset’ button with China, but will it be enough?


In Morrison’s case, it is less likely a Coalition would seek to put much distance between itself and Washington.

Where Morrison and Shorten converge is in their approaches to Australia’s engagement in the southwest Pacific in response to Beijing’s overtures to Pacific island states.

Both have pledged to step up Australia’s involvement. In his speech, Morrison noted Australia would build a naval base on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Given that Australia has long been the metropolitan power in the southwest Pacific, it could be said that pledges of engagement by both sides are belated.

But it might be also be observed that it’s better late than never.The Conversation

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Turnbull announces sex ban – and signals Joyce should consider his position


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull has announced that, from now, sexual relations between ministers and their staff will be prohibited under a change he has made to the ministerial code of conduct.

Addressing a news conference late on Thursday, Turnbull also strongly hinted he would like to see Barnaby Joyce step down.

Joyce had made “a shocking error of judgement in having an affair with a young woman working in his office”. In doing so he had set off a “world of woe” for his wife, daughters and indeed his new partner, and had “appalled all of us”.

When asked why he wouldn’t urge Joyce to resign, Turnbull pointed out that he was leader of the minor party in the Coalition.

But his preference was clear. “Barnaby has acknowledged his fault, his error, his grief about his conduct. He has to consider his own position obviously. These are matters for Barnaby Joyce to reflect on.”

Earlier Turnbull told parliament that when he visits the US next week, Senate leader Mathias Cormann – not Joyce – would be acting prime minister.

Turnbull said the ban on sexual relationships would apply even if the minister was single.

The ban parallels a prohibition last week passed by the US House of Representatives – although that was included in legislation while this is only in the ministerial code, and is only enforceable politically not legally.

It also follows a call by crossbencher Cathy McGowan last week for a “conversation” about conduct between MPs and their staff. Her call was dismissed at the time.

Turnbull said then: “Members of parliament, ministers all have to be accountable for their actions. As grown-ups, we are all accountable for our actions. Relations between consenting adults is not something that normally, you would be justified in, if you like, seeking to regulate.”

But government sources said Turnbull had been working on the sex ban all week.

Turnbull told his news conference the Joyce affair had raised “some very serious issues about the culture of this place, of this parliament”.

He said the present ministerial code was “truly deficient”.

“It does not speak strongly enough for the values that we should all live, values of respect, respectful workplaces – of workplaces where women are respected.”

He said this respect in workplaces was not entirely a gender issue. But “most of the ministers, most of the bosses in this building” were men and “there is a real gender perspective here”.

He said that whatever people might have turned a blind eye to in years past, in 2018 it was not acceptable for a minister to have a sexual relationship with someone who worked for them.

“It’s a very bad workplace practice. And everybody knows that no good comes of it.

The Conversation“Of course you know what attitudes in the corporate world and elsewhere are to this kind of thing. So, it is about time that this change was made. Probably should have been made a long time ago.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Two Labor frontbenchers urge Sam Dastyari to consider his position



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Sam Dastyari is facing increased pressure to consider his position as a Labor senator.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor senator Sam Dastyari is under renewed pressure to quit after allegations that he repeatedly pressed the ALP’s then foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek not to meet an advocate for Chinese democracy in 2015.

ALP frontbencher Linda Burney told Sky News early on Monday: “It is now up to Mr Dastyari to consider his position … Sam Dastyari I’m sure is thinking very deeply about his role within the party”.

Shortly after, another Labor frontbencher, Catherine King, also said: “Sam needs to reflect upon his position”.

The new allegation comes after earlier revelations about Dastyari tipping off a Chinese benefactor who was of interest to Australian security services that his phone was likely tapped.

The latest report in the Fairfax Media said that in January 2015, Plibersek went to Hong Kong. There, her meetings included one with Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a prominent academic with Australian citizenship.

Dastyari “repeatedly attempted to warn Ms Plibersek that her meetings in Hong Kong would upset figures in the Chinese community in Australia”, the report said. He left messages on her phone and contacted her office multiple times, it said.

But he was unable to reach her directly, because she had left her mobile phone at home for security reasons – although his messages were passed on to her, according to the report.

A spokesman for Dastyari said the claims were “complete rubbish”.

The latest claims against Dastyari, which appear to have come from within Labor, are thought to be part of an effort to get him to resign from the Senate.

Dastyari’s links with China have become a severe embarrassment to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. The government is relentlessly pursuing Shorten over them.

After it was revealed that Dastyari alerted Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo about his phone being probably tapped, and audio emerged of Dastyari reflecting China’s line on the South China Sea, Shorten stripped him of his position as deputy opposition whip in the Senate.

Late last week, Shorten said Dastyari’s career was “going nowhere, fast”. Dastyari was doing no media on Monday morning, but his office said he wasn’t quitting.

Labor cannot force him to resign from the parliament – it could only throw him out of the party. But any move against him by Shorten is complicated by Dastyari being a leading member of the New South Wales right, whose support Shorten needs.

Plibersek’s office has consistently declined to be drawn about Dastyari’s representations. Rumours about these have been circulating in Canberra for some time.

A spokesman said Plibersek’s “itinerary in Hong Kong, including a meeting with a prominent pro-democracy activist, went ahead precisely as scheduled – I think that speaks for itself”.

The Fairfax story put forward “one suggested explanation” for the Dastyari representations – that he contacted her office following an inquiry from a Sydney Chinese-language media outlet, which was preparing a critical story on her meetings.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton accused Dastyari of being “a double agent”, saying “he can’t be in the Australian Senate and it is important that Linda Burney has called for him to go and now Bill Shorten should do the same”.

The latest controversy around Dastyari comes days after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced into parliament legislation to combat foreign interference in Australian politics. The government and the security agencies have become increasingly alarmed at the growing scale of this intervention.

The ConversationBut the new legislation, which includes a register for those lobbying for foreign governments and businesses, has sparked an angry backlash from China. It has also been criticised by former trade minister Andrew Robb, who now works for the Chinese company Landbridge Group.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/xac9s-7e77c6?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Hillsong on Homosexuality … or Not


The link below is to an article on the Hillsong Church and its position on homosexual marriage – sort of.

For more visit:
http://christiannews.net/2014/10/18/hillsongs-brian-houston-wont-give-position-on-same-sex-marriage-were-on-the-journey-with-it/

Australian Politics: 19 July 2013


Compassion seems to have been lost in the asylum seeker debate in Australia, with the Kevin Rudd led Labor government taking a massive shift to a hardline position in refugee policy. The links below are to articles reporting on the new stance.

For more visit:
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/rudd-surprises-with-hardline-boat-plan/story-fni0xqi4-1226682198196
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/19/christine-milne-day-of-shame



Leadership tensions developing in the Liberal Party perhaps?

Orissa, India Christians Still Face Boycott, Forced Conversion


Hindu nationalists continue to oppress Christians in Kandhamal district, report says.

NEW DELHI, November 11 (CDN) — More than two years after losing relatives and property in anti-Christian violence, there is no sense of relief among survivors in India’s Orissa state, as many are still ostracized and pressured to “return” to Hinduism, according to a private investigation.

“Despite the state administration’s claim of normalcy,” the preliminary report of a fact-finding team states, “a state of lawlessness and utter fear and sense of insecurity” prevails among Christians of Kandhamal district, which saw a major anti-Christian bloodbath in 2008.

The team, consisting of local attorney Nicholas Barla and another identified only as Brother Marcus, along with rights activists Jugal Kishore Ranjit and Ajay Kumar Singh, visited four villages in three blocks of Kandhamal on Nov. 5.

In Bodimunda village in Tikabali, the team met a pastor who said he has been closely watched since Hindu extremists forced him to become a Hindu. The pastor, whose name the report withheld for security reasons, said he had to convert to Hinduism in 2008 “to save his old mother, who could not have escaped the violence as she was not in a position to walk.”

He is still closely watched in an effort to prevent him from returning to Christianity. While the attorneys and activists were still at the pastor’s house, a man who identified himself as from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, India’s most influential Hindu nationalist conglomerate) came to inquire about his visitors. The pastor felt compelled to tell them that they were “bank officials.”

In the same village, Hindu nationalists have also imposed a de facto ban on any private or public vehicle to ferry Christians or their belongings, said the report.

The team met the family of a paralyzed Christian, Bamadev Pradhan, whom auto-rickshaw drivers refused to take to a hospital when he recently ran a high fever. Eventually a Christian driver took him to the only hospital in Tikabali, around eight kilometers (nearly five miles) from his village of Bodimunda, but as the Christian was driving back, some local men confiscated his vehicle.

With the help of the auto-rickshaw union, the driver (unnamed in the report) got the vehicle released after paying a fine of 1,051 (US$24) rupees and promising that he would not transport any Christians in the future.

Another Christian said area Hindus extremists prohibited Christians from procuring basic necessities.

“We are not allowed to bring housing materials or food provisions or medicines, and nor are we allowed to buy anything from local shops,” he said. “We do not have any shop of our own. Here, we are struggling to live as human beings.”

The team also met a Hindu who had to pay 5,000 rupees (US$112) to get his tractor returned to him, as he had transported housing material for the construction of the house of a Christian.

In the house of a Christian in Keredi village in Phulbani Block, the team found a picture of a Hindu god. The resident, who was not identified in the report, explained that he had to display it in order to protect his family from harm.

The team found pictures of Hindu gods also in the house of a Christian in Gandapadar village in the Minia area, Phiringia Block. A woman in the house told the team that local Hindu nationalists had given her pictures of Hindu gods for worship.

“We have kept them, as they often come to check whether we have reconverted to Christianity,” she said.

Almost all Christians the team met complained that the local administration had done little to protect them and suspected that officials colluded with area Hindu nationalists.

Released on Nov. 8, the report asserts that Christians have been barred from taking water from a government well in Dakanaju village, under G. Udayagiri police jurisdiction in Tikabali Block. The village head, Sachindra Pradhan, has promised to take action “at the earliest,” it added.

Violence in Kandhamal and some other districts of Orissa state followed the assassination of Hindu nationalist leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on Aug. 23, 2008. The rampage killed over 100 people and burned 4,640 houses, 252 churches and 13 educational institutions, according to estimates by human rights groups.

The spate of attacks began a day after Saraswati’s killing when Hindu nationalist groups blamed Christians for his murder, although Maoists (extreme Marxists) active in the district claimed responsibility for it.

John Dayal, a Christian activist in Delhi, told Compass that “the apparatus of 2008 remains undisturbed.” The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was part of the ruling state alliance with the regional Biju Janata Dal (BJD) party at the time of the violence. Although the BJD broke up with the BJP in 2009, blaming it for the violence, the former cannot be excused, said Dayal.

“While the BJP is mainly to be blamed, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is not entirely innocent,” Dayal said. “Not  just that he allowed the BJP and RSS cadres to run amok when they were part of his government, turning a blind eye to their  very visible anti-Christian activities, but he was his own home [interior] minister and cannot really shirk command responsibility for the carnage together with his BJP ministerial colleagues and senior officers.”

Kandhamal district Magistrate Krishan Kumar, who was on a tour at press time, could not be contacted for comment despite repeated attempts.

Of the 648,201 people in Kandhamal district, 117,950 are Christian, mostly Dalit (formerly “untouchables” in the caste hierarchy in Hindu societies), according to the 2001 Census. Hindus, mainly tribal people and numbering 527,757, form the majority.

Report from Compass Direct News

Julia Gillard has Announced New Ministry for Minority Government


Prime Minister Gulia Gillard has announced the make up of her new ministry in Australia’s 43rd national government, in the current ALP minority government supported by the Greens and Independents. A Regional Ministry position was turned down by Independent Rob Oakeshott. There are several changes to the ALP team. The entire ministry can be viewed at:

http://alp.org.au/federal-government/news/prime-minister-announces-new-ministry/

Vietnam stepping up religious rights abuses, experts say


Government-perpetrated violence against a Catholic village in Vietnam has highlighted a series of human rights abuses in the communist nation, and three U.S. congressmen are calling on the United Nations to intervene, reports Baptist Press.

"A few months ago during a religious funeral procession, Vietnamese authorities and riot police disrupted that sad and solemn occasion, shooting tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd, beating mourners with batons and electric rods," Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., said at a hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in August.

"More than 100 were injured, dozens were arrested and several remain in custody and have reportedly been severely beaten and tortured. At least two innocent people have been murdered by the Vietnamese police," Smith said.

The Con Dau tragedy, Smith said, "is unfortunately not an isolated incident." Property disputes between the government and the Catholic church continue to lead to harassment, property destruction and violence, Smith said, referring to a report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

"In recent years, the Vietnamese government has stepped up its persecution of Catholic believers, bulldozing churches, dismantling crucifixes and wreaking havoc on peaceful prayer vigils," Smith said.

Persecution is not limited to Catholics, though, as Smith had a list of nearly 300 Montagnard political and religious prisoners. In January, the Vietnamese government sentenced two Montagnard Christians to 9 and 12 years imprisonment for organizing a house church, and others have been arrested in connection with house churches, Smith said.

"The arrests were accompanied by beatings and torture by electroshock devices," the congressman said. "We must not forget the sufferings of Khmer Krom Buddhists, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and others. The said reality is that the Vietnamese government persecutes any religious group that does not submit to government control."

The violence in the 80-year-old Catholic village of Con Dau in central Vietnam reportedly stemmed from a government directive for residents to abandon the village to make way for the construction of a resort.

International Christian Concern, a Washington-based watchdog group, reported that when Con Dau residents refused to leave, water irrigation was shut off to their rice fields, stopping the main source of income and food.

In May, police attacked the funeral procession, beating more than 60 people, including a pregnant woman who was struck in the stomach until she had a miscarriage, ICC said.

One of the funeral procession leaders later was confronted by police in his home, where they beat him for about four hours and then released him. He died the next day, ICC said. Eight people remain in police custody and are awaiting trial.

"The people of Con Dau are living in desperate fear and confusion," Thang Nguyen, executive director of an organization representing Con Dau victims, told ICC. "Hundreds of residents have been fined, and many have escaped to Thailand."

Smith, along with Rep. Joseph Cao, R.-La., and Frank Wolf, R.-Va., introduced a House resolution in July calling for the United Nations to appoint a special investigator to probe "ongoing and serious human rights violations in Vietnam." In August, the Lantos Commission met in emergency session to address the "brutal murders and systematic treatment of Catholics in Con Dau."

"The Vietnamese government justifies this violence, torture and murder because the villagers of Con Dau had previously been ordered, some through coercion, to leave their village, property, church, century-old cemetery, their religious heritage, and to forgo equitable compensation in order to make way for a new ‘green’ resort," Smith said at the hearing. "Nothing, however, not even governmental orders, grant license for government-sanctioned murder and other human rights abuses."

The U.S. Department of State declined to testify before the Lantos Commission, and the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam characterized the Con Dau incident as a land dispute and refused to get involved.

Logan Maurer, a spokesman for International Christian Concern, told Baptist Press he has publicized about 10 different incidents of persecution in Vietnam during the past few months.

"In some cases, especially in Southeast Asia, religious persecution becomes a gray area. We also work extensively in Burma, where often there are mixed motives for why a particular village is attacked," Maurer said. "Is it because they’re Christian? Well, partially. Is it because they’re an ethnic minority? Partially.

"So I think the same thing happens in Vietnam where you have a whole village that’s Catholic. One hundred percent of it was Catholic," he said of Con Dau.

Maurer explained that local government officials in Vietnam generally align Christianity with the western world and democracy, which is still seen as an enemy in Vietnam on a local level.

"As far as the official government Vietnamese position, that’s different, but local government officials do not take kindly to Christians and never have. We have documented many cases of government officials saying Christianity is the enemy. So here it’s mixed motives as best we can figure out," Maurer said.

"They wanted to build a resort there, and they could have picked a different village but they chose the one on purpose that was Catholic because it represents multiple minorities — minority religion, minority also in terms of people that can’t fight back. If they go seek government help, the government is not going to help them."

A Christian volunteer who has visited Vietnam five times in the past decade told Baptist Press the Con Dau incident illustrates the way the Vietnamese government responds to any kind of dissent.

"In our country, and in modern democracies, there are methods for resolving disputes with the government, taking them to court, trying to work through the mediation process," the volunteer, who did not want to be identified, said. "In Vietnam there is no such thing. It is the government’s will or there will be violence."

Vietnam’s constitution includes a provision for religious liberty, but the volunteer said that only goes as far as the communal will of the people, which is monopolized by the Communist Party.

"So when the Communist Party says you can’t build a church there or you can’t worship this way, those who say, ‘Well, I have religious freedom,’ are essentially trumped by the constitution that says it’s the will of the people, not individual liberty that’s important," the volunteer said.

The government in Vietnam has made efforts during the past 15 years to open up the country to economic development, and with that has come an influx of some western values and a lot of Christians doing work there, the volunteer said.

"I would first caution Christians to still be careful when they’re there working," he said, adding that government officials closely watch Christians who visit from other countries, and books about Jesus cause trouble.

Secondly, the volunteer warned that all news emerging from Vietnam must be tested for accuracy on both sides because both those who are persecuting and those who are sounding the alarm on persecution have their own political goals.

"That being said, I don’t doubt that this happened," the volunteer said regarding Con Dau.

International Christian Concern urges Americans to contact the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington at 202-861-0737, and the Christian volunteer said people can contact the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to encourage changes in Vietnam.

"They can also directly e-mail the ambassador and the consular general in Ho Chi Minh City and encourage them to push for more reform," he said. "And they can contact companies that are having products made in Vietnam and encourage the business leaders to speak out for change in those countries. You go to JC Penney today in the men’s department and pick up almost anything, it’s made in Vietnam. That’s the kind of pressure they could put on them."

Report from the Christian Telegraph

Conviction of Legislator in India Falls Short of Expectations


In murder of Christian, Hindu nationalist sentenced to seven years for causing ‘grievous hurt.’

NEW DELHI, July 2 (CDN) — Christians in Orissa state had mixed feelings about the sentencing on Tuesday (June 29) of state legislator Manoj Pradhan to seven years in prison for causing grievous hurt and rioting – but not for murder.

“Pradhan is not convicted of murder, but offenses of voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons and rioting were upheld,” attorney Bibhu Dutta Das told Compass. “Pradhan will be debarred from attending the Orissa Legislative Assembly unless the order of conviction is stayed by the Orissa High Court, or if special permission is granted by the court allowing him to attend.”

Kanaka Rekha Nayak, widow of murdered Christian Parikhita Nayak, acknowledged that the verdict on Pradhan and fellow Hindu nationalist Prafulla Mallick in the August-September 2008 violence against Christians did not meet her expectations. She said she was happy that Pradhan was finally behind bars, but that she “expected the court to at least pronounce life imprisonment on Pradhan and Mallick for the gruesome act that they committed.”

Das said he will try to increase the sentence.

“Pradhan spearheaded the riots and has several criminal charges against him – he cannot be let off with a simple punishment,” Das said. “We will be filing a criminal revision in the Orissa High Court for enhancing the period to life imprisonment.”

The day after Pradhan was sentenced, two Hindu nationalists were reportedly convicted of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” in the burning death of a paralyzed Christian during the 2008 attacks on Christians in Orissa state’s Kandhamal district and sentenced to only six years of prison.

UCAN agency reported that Sushanta Sahu and Tukuna Sahu were convicted and sentenced on Wednesday (June 30) in the death of Rasananda Pradhan, a paralytic burned alive when Hindu extremists set his house on fire on Aug. 24, 2008. Church leaders criticized the lenient sentences.

Manoj Pradhan has been charged in 14 cases related to the August-September 2008 anti-Christian attacks. In seven of the cases he has been acquitted, he was convicted of “grievous hurt” in this one, and six more are pending against him.

Of the 14 cases in which he faces charges, seven involve murder; of those murder cases, he has been acquitted in three.

After a series of trials in which murder suspects in the 2008 Kandhamal district violence have gone free as Hindu extremist threats kept witnesses from testifying, the testimony of Nayak’s daughter, 6-year-old Lipsa Nayak, helped seal Pradhan’s conviction.

His widow, Rekha Nayak, told Compass that due to the severe threats on her life that she has received, she and her two daughters were forced to flee the area and go into hiding.

There were around 1,500 Hindu supporters present for this week’s verdict, a source in the courtroom told Compass on condition of anonymity.

“We had to leave the place before the judgment was pronounced and could not enter that area for three or four days after the verdict,” said the source, adding that prosecuting lawyers and human rights activists received the main threats.

Along with the seven years of prison, the Phulbani Court sentenced the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of the Legislative Assembly of Orissa from G. Udayagiri, Kandhamal to a fine a little more than US$100, as it did for Mallick. The verdict came from Fast Track Sessions Court I Judge Sobhan Kumar Das in the Aug. 27, 2008 murder of 31-year-old Parikhita Nayak, a Dalit Christian from Tiangia, Budedipada, in Raikia block of Kandhamal district.

Pradhan was also accused of setting fire to houses of people belonging to the minority Christian community.

“I have the highest regard for the judiciary,” Pradhan told Press Trust of India after this week’s verdict. “We will appeal against the verdict in the higher court.”

Cases have been filed against Pradhan for rioting, rioting with deadly weapons, unlawful assembly, causing disappearance of evidence of offense, murder, wrongfully restraining someone, wrongful confinement, mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy houses, voluntarily causing grievous hurt and voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means.

Dibakar Parichha of the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Catholic Archdiocese told Compass that the judgment was “a good boost to the Christian community.”

“When the trials were on, the Nayak family faced terrible times,” Parichha added. “Pradhan and his associates threatened Kanaka Rekha, the widow of the deceased, right inside the courtroom of dire consequences if they testified about them.”

Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar diocese issued a statement saying that the verdict had boosted confidence in the judiciary that criminals will be punished.

“People have been waiting for good judgment, and we have confidence in the judiciary that criminals will be punished,” Cheenath said, adding that the sentence will show criminals that the law will not spare any one. “One day or other, they will be punished.”

The Rev. Richard Howell, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, told Compass that the verdict offered some hope.

“The fact that something has happened gives us some hope that more convictions would take place in the trials to come,” he said.

Calling the conviction “justice that was long overdue,” Howell said that not much can be expected from Fast Track Courts as no security is provided to witnesses.

 

Girl’s Testimony

During the 2008 anti-Christian attacks that followed the death of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, Lipsa Nayak’s parents and her sister had taken refuge in the forest to escape the fury of the Hindu extremists, but the rampaging mob tracked them down.

Lipsa, then 4 years old, along with her mother and then 2-year-old sister, Amisha Nayak, watched in horror as the crowd allegedly beat her father for two hours and then killed him by cutting him into pieces and burning him.

Rekha Nayak filed a complaint and a case was registered against Pradhan, Mallick and others for murder, destroying evidence, rioting and unlawful assembly. Pradhan was arrested on Oct. 16, 2008, from Berhampur, and in December 2009 he obtained bail from the Orissa High Court.

Despite his role in the attacks, Pradhan was the only BJP candidate elected from the G. Udayagiri constituency in the 2009 Assembly elections from Kandhamal district. He had campaigned inside jail.

On March 14, Rekha Nayak and her daughter Lipsa testified in court in spite of the threats. Rekha Nayak reportedly testified that when the Hindu mob demanded that her husband renounce Christianity or face death, he kept quiet, which led to his death.

Prosecution and defense lawyers questioned Lipsa for more than 90 minutes, and she reportedly answered all questions without wavering. Asked by the judge if she could identify the killer of her father, she pointed to Pradhan.

So far he has been exonerated of murder charges against him for “lack of witnesses.” Christian leaders say that Pradhan has been intimidating witnesses because of his position as a member of the Legislative Assembly.

The government of Orissa has set up two Fast Track courts to try cases related to the violence that spread to more than a dozen districts of Orissa. The attacks killed more than 100 people and burned 4,640 houses, 252 churches and 13 educational institutions.

Trials are being held for 38 cases in which 154 people have been convicted and more than twice that many have been acquitted, as high as 621 by one count. Victims filed 3,232 complaints in the various police stations of Kandhamal district. Of these, police registered cases in only 832 instances.

“Nearly 12,000 people are accused in the riot case – 11,803 are out on bail,” said attorney Das.

Report from Compass Direct News