Anarchists have been involved in supporting aboriginal land rights and opposing uranium mining for many years. A number of anarchists were involved in the campaign during 1998 to stop the Jabiluka Uranium Mine from progressing. Some attended the blockade itself, organised in conjunction with the Mirrar people. Others protested in the capital cities, putting pressure on North Ltd, the corporate owner of Energy Resources Australia who own the mining lease. Subsidiary pressure was also applied to major shareholders, including the Westpac bank, and politicians.
The open letter by Rebecca on the blockade organisation highlights many problems which occurred, "the logical outcome was a hierarchy that lost touch with its responsibility to the people who were risking arrest and charges."
Ciaron O'Reilly and Treena Lenthall are christian anarchists. The Jabiluka Ploughshares trial describes in depth their reasons for damaging mining equipment on August 8. Their action, although controversial, provides an example of peaceful civil disobedience.
|The issues raised in this open letter from Rebecca are far too important to ignore. I choose to publish this report to stimulate discussion over tactics and strategy. I do not agree with Ciaron O'Rielly's and Treena Lenthal's Ploughshares action, however many of the issues raised about the ongoing organisation of the blockade are far too important to ignore.|
|Takver 16 September 1998|
|This is an open letter I have written as a result of my experiences of being a member of both the blockade and camp at Jabiluka, from April to August 1998. It is intended to be read out at a camp general meeting. It is also going to be disseminated as widely as possible outside of Jabiluka. It is not intended in anyway to try and destroy the anti Jabiluka campaign, simply to analyse problems that are apparent so that people are aware of them and hopefully act to change them.|
I am writing this letter to everyone concerned with the campaign currently happening to halt uranium mining on aboriginal land at Jabiluka. I address this letter to all concerned as I feel sending it only to the people that I believe are undermining the camp would be pointless, as it is my belief that these same people would not pay attention to the points raised. Considering past and present experiences I have had with these people in leadership positions at camp, I have come to the conclusion that criticisms would be ignored or deemed irrelevant. It is extremely important in relation to the effectiveness of the campaign (blockade???) that people become aware about what is happening and for communication to be open and for debate to be encouraged and uncensored.
My reasons for becoming part of the anti-Jabiluka mine blockade were simple and direct: to join with others to stop the uranium mine being built and to aid the Mirrar people in their struggle for self-determination. On arrival at camp I was impressed by the shared responsibility and grass roots decision making that went on. It seemed that this was the best way to run the camp, with the people most affected by the decisions making them. The exception to this was shown in the way that blockade actions were planned and carried out- with a few leaders making all the decisions (in consultation with Gundjehmi, not with the participants!), and expecting people to put their 'life and liberty' on the line through blind trust.
The secrecy was always justified by people being told to put their egos aside and by participants being told they didn't need to know until the last minute, in case informers in camp got word and tipped off the police. Of course, the people planning the actions always put themselves in the elite position of never risking arrest or putting themselves where there would be potential for arrest, but never the inevitability. These people held/hold positions of power in camp as they were privileged to Gundjehmis' liasing with them and were expected not to pass on information given by Gundjehmi eg. being told logistical information such as the arrival of work-site equipment and keeping it secret while building a mass action around it. While this may seem acceptable on tactical grounds the logical outcome was a hierarchy that lost touch with its responsibility to the people who were risking arrest and charges.
Over time this leadership was forced to deal with the media collective which was beginning to become more of a priority with Gundjehmi, as they repositioned the campaign to appeal to middle Australia, and so all actions now needed to be media friendly ie. non confrontational. The use of camp comrades as cannon fodder was one of the most outrageous aspects of camp policy. People were told at their induction that "once you are arrested you are on your own". This left the arrested activists with little logistical or legal support eg. after mass arrests people had no means of getting back to Darwin (300km from camp). On a number of occasions the only reason the bus ended up going to Darwin to get people as they came out of prison was because another person and I would not let the matter drop. While in Darwin people found themselves without money (having been arrested on actions), without places to stay (billeting in Darwin was chaotic and inadequate), and without proper legal support.
Further lack of support for camp members is evidenced in the camp and JAG response to people stranded in Jabiluka - many people purchased return bus tickets which they can no longer use since the cessation of buses to and from Jabiluka. When I queried about this the leadership explained, and I quote "people got a good deal on the price of the tickets, even for one way" - this reaction sort of misses the point!. Not everybody up there has access to mummy and daddy's bank account to pay for a commercial bus back to their home!.
The lack of solidarity shown to members of camp who put themselves on the front lines of actions, is typical of those in positions of leadership. Unfortunately the Jabiluka blockade leadership exhibits traits that can be found in any political movement controlled by the white middle class with conservative direct action agendas. They seem to have found good bed fellows in the Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation too. Between the leaders at camp and Gundjehmi there seems to be no difference in their lack of respect and manipulation of the white rank and file. It has got to the stage where the conservatives running the green groups with the campaign (TWS/ACF/ECNT) have delivered the Jabiluka issue to the ALP.
These actions have alienated large numbers of activists from the whole campaign and will alienate many more, as they see themselves as being used by interest groups furthering their own individual agendas. At worst this tactic has burnt out a generation of activists who will be unlikely to put their trust into such an intense campaign again. When people representing the campaign dip into the Jabiluka Action Fund coffers for $30 000 to further ALP election hopes, and when a $500 a week salary for the administration of these funds goes to James Wardell (ALP member and Jabiluka participant) you have to wonder just how far off the original path the whole thing has gone!
In order to put parts of this letter in context it is important to draw attention to what Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation actually is and their role in the campaign. Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation is a group set up to manage the affairs of the Mirrar people. The issue of the Jabiluka campaign is not the only thing that these women have to deal with- their responsibility is to the Mirrar in all aspects of Mirrars' day to day life. It is no mean feat to keep such an troubled community functioning. While being determined and dedicated to the issue of Jabiluka, none of these women have any history of direct, grass roots activism. Jacqui Katona, the executive officer of Gundjehmi, has only the experience of working in well funded government projects.
While Jacquis' experience may be seen as an asset it hardly lays the ground work for working in a non-authoritarian, non-hierarchical, consensus based framework, which is the basis of camp structure as set out in the camp hand book. When I arrived at camp it was my understanding that Gundjehmi would have veto over actions on the grounds of "cultural sensitivity". This is not they way it turned out though- it has ended with Gundjehmi, and whichever interest group has their ear, dictating the entire strategy of camp, with no respect for those following their orders. This strategy and it's obvious consequences that have led to a lack of solidarity between working parties connected with the campaign has not been revised in a positive direction, only a negative one, so that the present chaos of the national campaign is the direct result of such a policy (see attached "endorsement form", faxed 20/6/98).
Gundjehmi, it must be stressed are only representatives of the Mirrar, not Mirrar themselves, and consequently the decisions that they make may not be the same as those the Mirrar would make themselves. While there are obvious problems in obtaining a decision of integrity from the Mirrar eg. major cultural differences and the daily pressures of poverty and alcoholism combine with a lack of experience of running an international campaign to make it difficult for the Mirrar to take an effective decision-making role in the blockade. Because of this, it's important to realise they're in a position ripe for exploitation to further other people's political agendas. While it would seem logical that the Mirrar should have the right to control what happens within their own community lands, it must be acknowledge that we were invited to come and fight with the Mirrar, not for them. Fighting with somebody means that you do it together, not with one party dictating how everything will happen.
On August 12 Treena Lenthal and Ciaron O'Rielly non-violently disarmed uranium mining equipment in the Jabiluka mine compound. They also spray-painted messages on the equipment and poured their blood over it to symbolise the devastating nature of uranium. Pictures of victims of nuclear weapons were also left at the site. They then sat in prayer so as to reflect on what they had done and to invite others to join in the disarmament process that they had begun. They did this action without camp approval, though security around the action demanded it to be this way. There is a camp policy of no property damage, though Gundjehmi did initially approve this action regardless of this policy. Approval was withdrawn for this action not because of camp policy and not because of cultural issues, but because Jacqui said that the timing was wrong -it was not the media image that we wanted to present at the moment. In Treena and Ciarons' letter "apologies good friends", which was addressed to camp, they said that "we respectfully beg to differ".
After the action there was a press release circulated that stated it was a "Ploughshares" action, not one done by the official Jabiluka protest camp (the Ploughshares movement is involved in non-violent, direct action against war and the raw materials used in war). During the night of the action statements of intent and apologies to camp, along with the Ploughshares media release were placed under the door of the media collective office and the Gundjehmi office. These statements were then taken to camp and put on a notice board for all to read, however they were soon removed by persons unknown to me.
This was the start of a smear campaign against these two activists. Tyrone Gibb, who was being held in Berrimah jail when Treena and Ciaron were arrested for this action was released soon after it. When Ty was released the media collective circulated a fax that stated that there were no more of our people in jail, thus denying the existence of Ciaron and Treena as political activists connected to the Jabiluka cause. From that point in time to now the camp has censored their cause out of existence - denying them their right to solidarity and support. At camp they have been labelled as racist, Christian fundamentalists (in another attempt to destroy the credibility of their actions and to alienate people that would otherwise offer support). These are low slanders to make against people who are unable to reply to them, and those who are making them need either their intelligence or their integrity questioned- perhaps both! It is statements such as this that seem to convince me even more that white guilt is guiding this issue (maybe the whole of the Jabiluka campaign!)- as if any action undertaken without aboriginal approval is a racist act!
With all due respect the Mirrar are not infallible, they did agree to this mine in the first place, albeit this was under extreme pressure from the government, the NLC and Pan Continental. If the Mirrar people had self determination and decent living standards at this early stage of events it would be likely that we would not be in the situation we are now all in. The damage done as a result of the colonisation of this country must be repaired, but blind obedience and sycophancy are not the way to do it.
Another incident that highlights the authoritarian nature of Gundjehmi is the 'big stick' episode. As a result of ongoing, unresolved problems with camp and some ridiculous allegations, Carol and Christine from Gundjehmi came out to camp brandishing big sticks. A message came over the camp radio simply saying that people were to be in the meeting space in 20 minutes or they were no longer welcome at camp- no further explanation was given. People were then organised into a circle by James Wardell in a way that prepared us for the scolding to come! Carole and Christine stood beside their car watching as this happened, and then they stepped into the circle and took charge. There were two things made clear at the beginning of this lecture: that children and their carers were not welcome and that if anybody felt that they had anything to say the best course of action for them was to get up, pack their bags and to leave camp for good.
There were a number of issues raised by these two women, the most significant being: that people were rumoured to be going to the compound at night and throwing rocks at the security guards (told to Gundjhemi by our friends the police); that people had been breaking or loosely interpreting the rules that had been laid out for camp; and that people were either idiots or racists because they drank at the local pubs- one owned by ERA, the other by the local pro-mine aboriginal corporation (this coming from women who live in ERA houses). It was constantly repeated that the people gathered had no right to say anything, even against the unfounded, highly dubious allegations of rock throwing.
At some point two large sticks were taken from the car and thrown into the middle of the circle and we were told that this was how aboriginal women dealt with problems they had with others (enough of a cultural experience for you?). People were then told that it was not known who was guilty of the accusations being levelled but those who were challenged to come and take up one of the sticks. Naturally there were no takers and so the tirade continued. There were various other threats made, one being that we were told that anybody going up on the lease at night had better look out because there would be aboriginal (Mirrar?) people patrolling it and anybody caught would be 'dealt with'- something along the lines of a spearing was suggested.
After this collective flagellation I saw many people who were very angry about being treated like this and promptly left camp for good, many others followed suit in the following week. One revealing comment I heard of many supporting the dressing down was "it's good to see white people put in their place by aboriginal people". This sort of sentiment only confirmed my growing fear that key elements of camp were kow-towing to aboriginals out of a sense of white guilt.
All in all the camp and the campaign have made some tactical moves that have compromised the original aims of the blockade. From it's well intentioned inception to it's 'sellout' to the ALP and high profile green groups, the campaign has been unfortunate enough to follow the classic line of descent that many other environmental campaigns have taken, in that they abused and disrespected what at one time was their most valuable asset - the activists.
At the moment the 'blockade' as such doesn't exist -it is only there as a symbol of resistance while the 'important' people make their decisions in private and count the money that's being used/misused? A recent story I heard about The Wilderness Society using Jabiluka funds to pay off a considerable debt on their shop in Newcastle does not inspire any confidence. The ALP will not be our saviours in the Jabiluka issue as they have already admitted that their hands are tied in respect to stopping the mine. The ALP has stated that it will only stop Jabiluka if no contracts have been signed and if no export licence has been granted- both these processes have already happened, the singed contacts in abundance, and according the ALP the cancelling of their validity is not an option.
I am aware of the potential controversy that this letter may stir up, however I feel strongly for the people involved in the Jabiluka campaign, both black and white, who have given time, energy and resources in the hope of stopping the mine. I see it as part of my responsibility to these people to air what I believe are fundamental problems in the running of the anti Jabiluka campaign. I realise that for a lot of people this will be the first they have heard of such problems, and it is partly this lack of knowledge and flow of information about these issues that has prompted me to write this letter in the first place.
yours in solidarity
|here's a verbatim copy of a letter that Jacqui sent out to ALL JAG GROUPS, on the 20th of July, and expected a reply by the 24th. I have referred to it as the "endorsement form" in my letter|
FOR URGENT ATTENTION OF ALL JABILUKA GROUPS!
the Gundjehmi aboriginal corporation, the organisation established to represent the interests of the Mirrar, is in the process of undertaking a review of the structure of the Jabiluka campaign.
Over the last year the campaign has been extraordinarily successful, with Jabiluka now firmly established as Australia's highest profile land rights, environment and anti-uranium struggle. A recent news poll has demonstrated that more than two-thirds of the Australian population is opposed to the construction of Jabiluka mine- a significant achievement in the current political climate.
The challenge facing all those involved in the campaign is to maintain and increase the current momentum up to and beyond the next federal election and the world heritage bureau visit. In addition, the Mirrar must maintain the ability to direct activities that impact on country- including aspects of the solidarity campaign.
With this in mind, Gundjehmi aboriginal corporation is planning to implement an "endorsement" scheme for campaign groups and activities. Each regional or metropolitan centre will have an endorsed group(s) which has a direct line of communication with Gundjehmi aboriginal corporation (or its delegates) and which operate with the endorsement of the traditional owners. Other (non-endorsed) groups desiring to work on the Jabiluka campaign will be asked to operate within endorsed groups.
Upon receiving endorsement, each group will be supplied with a written protocol for liason with the mirrrar which will include a requirement to provide regular reports to Gundjehmi and to seek approval from gundjemi before undertaking activities which will impact upon the Mirrrar. Ongoing endorsement will be subject to this protocol.
Unfortunately, we are operating on a very tight timeframe due to our impending fundraising and lobbying tour of europe. Accordingly, Gundjehmi will require all groups who wish to gain endorsement to submit an application by close of business on friday July 24. Applications should be forwarded on the attached form. Groups will be notified of their endorsement by Friday august 31.
We are proposing this initiative to develop a process which continues to acknowledge all elements of the campaign and ensures an effective and co-ordinate use of resources. I would like to reiterate how successful the campaign is progressing from the perspective of Gundjehmi and to congratulate the tens of thousands of people who have spent invaluable energy helping the Mirrar to protect country and break the nuclear fuel cycle.
yours in solidarity
(this form must be returned by Friday July 24. Late applications may be refused. Additional information may be attached to this form)
1.DISCRIPTION OF ORGANISATION. (include name, structure, membership, affiliation with other organisations, co-ordinators, resources, contact details etc.
2.DESCRIPTION OF AREA COVERED. (include geographic & demographic)
3.GROUP ACHIEVEMENTS TO DATE. ( actions, media, information distribution, fund raising, solidarity links. Please attach all copies of stickers, posters and other material currently in use.)
4.PLANNED FUTURE ACTIVITIES. (As above and participation in national working groups, timelines etc)
5.STATEMENT OF COMMITMENT TO ONGOING CONSULTATION WITH MIRRAR & RESPECT FOR MIRRAR DECISIONS ABOUT COUNTRY.
The FBI and the US Embassy have provided Darwin prosecutors with information on O'Reilly's disarmament of a nuclear armed B-52 Bomber in New York during the 1991 Gulf War.
Meanwhile in Colorado, US, on Hiroshima Day, Daniel Sicken, a Vietnam War Air Force veteran, and Sachio Ko-Yin from the War Resisters League, entered a nuclear armed Minuteman 3 missile silo. With hammers and their own blood they symbollically disarmed structures on the launching pad of the Minuteman 3 nuclear missile silo.
In Scotland at the Faslane Trident nuclear submarine base, over 100 international peace activists have attempted to gain entry to the site to disarm the huge death ship. Many have been arrested, including Australian, Jens Light, who is presently being held in a Scottish prison.
Source: Email 9Sep98
The traditional owners of the Jabiluka uranium mine site, in the Northern Territory are distancing themselves from protesters who poured human blood on mine equipment.
Ciaron O'Reily, aged 38, and 25-year-old Treena Lenthall - both from Brisbane - appeared briefly in the Darwin Magistrate's Court today, charged with criminal damage and trespass at the uranium mine site yesterday.
A spokesperson for traditional owners, Jacqui Katona, has condemned the protest action.
"As for people who choose to take actions on behalf of individual groups or separate groups without the authority of Mirrar people, we view that very dimly," she said.
Source: ABC 10Aug98
|Arrested for "trespass" on her own land!|
The proposed Jabiluka uranium mine, within Kakadu National Park, is on land owned by the Mirrar people. Yvonne Margarula (pictured) is recognised in both Aboriginal law and white law as the senior traditional owner of the mineral lease.
In May, during a protest on the lease, Yvonne was arrested for "trespass" - on land she and her ancestors have owned for 40,000 years. The verdict in this outrageous case will be handed down on September 1st.
Show your solidarity with the Mirrar people, and protest against governments and mining companies turning Aboriginal people into "trespassers" on their own land.
Yvonne Margarula at the lease Gates (Photo Courtesy: Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation)
Innocent of trespass
Melbourne Protests...North Ltd, the parent company to Energy Resources of Australia, was blockaded all day on the 1st of September. During the day news was received that Yvonne Margarula, the senior traditional owner of the Jabiluka lease, had been found guilty by a Northern Territory Court of trespass on her own land.
During the morning peak hour traffic on St Kilda Road was blocked. The vigil had commenced the previous evening, with people camping on the building grounds and the footpath. At 10pm on the Thursday night over 250 people were present. A series of bands entertained the crowd overnight and during Tuesday. Throughout the day the entrance to North's was effectively blockaded with linked arms outside the main entrance and songs and chanting for the Jabiluka mine to be stopped.
Both the Prime Minister, Honest John Howard, and opposition leader, Kim Beazley, had to run a gauntlet of anti-uranium protesters outside radio station 3AW in Melbourne.
Blockade of North Ltd 1st September 1998
Today Ciaron O'Reilly and Treena Lenthall appeared in court for the verdict and sentencing for their Nagasaki Day Ploughshares action - the disarming of an excavator at the Jabiluka Uranium mining site.
The morning began outside the court with a gathering of around thirty people to remember those currently in gaol for nuclear and military resistance.
In court Magistrate Loadman spent over an hour reading his decision in which he found Treena guilty of Trespass and Damaging Property, and Ciaron guilty of Trespass and two counts of Damaging Property. Treena was acquitted on one count of Damaging Property as it was found that Ciaron alone cut the fence into the mine site.
Both Ciaron and Treena were sentenced to 14 days in gaol, the minimum sentence available under the Northern Territory's mandatory sentencing legislation. The magistrate ruled that they had already served this time in gaol and so were not required to return to gaol.
Ciaron and Treena were ordered to jointly pay court costs of $1415 and restitution of $5258. They were given one month to pay, despite stating that they had no intention of paying and asking that they be given no time to pay. They face a further 66 days imprisonment in default of payment.
Ciaron and Treena left the court amidst cheers and a standing ovation from the people in the gallery, as the police mistakenly took them into custody. They were shortly released and immediately began advocating the closure of the Jabiluka Uranium mine to the waiting media.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that in sentencing, magistrate David Loadman said actions had often been instrumental in bringing about change, like the situation in Indonesia, but the rule of law had to be upheld.
Outside the court, Mr O'Reilly said he refused to pay for the damage to the excavator, and was prepared to go to jail in default of the restitution.
He said the magistrate's sentencing comments showed a little sympathy.
"I think he was touched by the issues raised. I think the real crime is still at Jabiluka and the Mirrar have told us it's a crime, and now the United Nations are saying that they want the work to stop immediately and that's the issue which I had to put before the court. And as we indicated we have no intention of paying restitution for a machine that's illegally destroying Mirrar land."
The day began with a gathering outside the N.T. Department of Mines and Energy where we vigiled for half an hour. Before walking to the court house we closed in a circle of prayer, remembering the victims of uranium from the atomic bombings of Nagasaki & Hiroshima, the nuclear tests at Maralinga, Muroroa, Khazikstan, Nevada and elsewhere, endless nuclear accidents and the most recent victims - the children of Iraq suffering from radioactive poisoning as a result of 14,000 depleted uranium shells and 900,000 d.u. bullets fired by U.S. and British forces in 1991. We left a shrine to the children at the entrance to the Dept. of Mines. During the circle we were passed by a worker entering the building carrying a stack of "Northern territory News" with the massive headline of UNESCO denouncing the Jabiluka Uranium Mine as a threat to the entire world heritage listed wilderness of Kakadu.
In the afternoon, Ciaron & Treena's case began before Magistrate Loadman. The pair face a charge of trespass and two counts of criminal damage arising from their ploughshares witness on Nagasaki Day (9/8/98) at Jabiluka where they disabled uranium mining equipment. The defendants immediately requested that Magistrate Loadman disqualify himself from the case on the basis of "perceived bias" as he had described people participating in the Jabiluka Blockade as "selfish, arrogant and fascist". He had made these highly prejudicial remarks in his court on July 29th. while sentencing blockaders who had plead guilty to trespass at Jabiluka. Treena was present in his court in a support capacity on this occasion.
Magistrate Loadman refused to disqualify himself. Ciaron responded by addressing the magistrate on the meaning of fascism and that it is a very serious word with millions of victims that should not be used in such a way. Ciaron stated that Loadman had compromised any sense of objectivity surrounding the ploughshares case. The Prosecutor then made additional changes to the particulars of the criminal damage charge. The defendants responded by calling for an adjournment to seek further legal advice and to tactically reassess.
The defendants considered requesting a well known Darwin Civil Liberties Barrister, Colin McDonald, put in an interim prohibition at the Supreme Court level seeking the removal of Magistrate Loadman from the ploughshares case. This approach was abandoned with the advice that appeal options should be kept open on questions of "perceived prejudice" and other irregularities. The defendants see a responsibility to the other 500 blockaders in front of the Northern Territory courts and to the general civil liberties situation in the Northern Territory to challenge such abuses.
The prosecution indicated it will call 14 witnesses including DNA experts, an insurance assessor, 3 Chubb security, one ERA executive and four police.
The second day of the Jabiluka Ploughshares case went ahead in front of Magistrate Loadman in Darwin, Australia.
The prosecution presented three Chubb private security officers who gave evidence, including video tape of the disabled excavator. One admitted that the local traditional owners - the Mirrar - had expressed fears of the mine as a threat to their lives and environment. Loadman initially tried to suppress such questions, but the defendants successfully argued such questions were relevant to their defense under Section 43 of the N.T. Criminal Code, which allows a defense of justification to criminal damage.
The defendants defence in the Northern Territory Criminal Code rests on Section 43 "Damage to Property":
"A person is excused from criminal responsibility for damage caused to property by the use of such force as was reasonably necessary for the purpose of defending or protecting himself, or any other person, or any property from injury that he believed on reasonable grounds, was imminent, provided an ordinary person similarly circumstanced would have acted in the same or a similar way."
This section accords with the general principle underlying the common law defence of necessity.
The security officers also admitted that their attention to the excavator was attracted by the loud shouts and songs of invitation of the defendants. In response to one of the security stating that the excavator was "good" at 4 a.m., Ciaron put it to him that the excavator had been rendered good by the defendants disabling it that morning. This question was suppressed by the magistrate. Ciaron followed with the proposition that security officers were invited by the defendants into the "good work of disarmament they had started that morning". At this point the magistrate threatened to stand the case down and have Ciaron charged with contempt of court if he persisted in such cross examination.
The security officers were then followed by Frank Devine, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) Emergency Operations Manager at both Ranger and the new Jabiluka uranium mines. Devine was evasive under cross-examination but admitted knowledge of the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear accidents, he admitted that ERA sold uranium to the United States and that the U.S. had used uranium to manufacture nuclear weapons. He claimed no knowledge at all of the existence of depleted uranium rounds.
Two police witnesses were called. The second policeman provided video evidence of the disarmament. He introduced the hammers, boltcutters, banner & signed statements left at the scene into evidence and will retake the stand when the case recommences on Thursday, Dec 3rd.
The week began with the report of the U.N. World Heritage Commission that visited Jabiluka & surrounding Kakadu in October. The Commission found that the Jabiluka Mine threatens this World Heritage listed wilderness and that it posed a threat to the Mirrar, their culture and land. The Commission has requested a 6 month moratorium on any work on the mine while the Australian government responds to the findings. The Australian government has refused the request. The local NT News stated in its editorial that the U.N. should be ignored and ERA should "get on with the job of mining Jabiluka". NT News coverage of the Jabiluka Ploughshares carries a predictable spin.
Treena, Ciaron and friends will continue with their vigils outside the Dept. of Mines and Energy leading up to the recommencement of the court case on Thursday Dec. 3rd 9 a.m.
Due to the zealous work of the N.T. police force, the prosecution department seem overburdened and the magistrates court unable keep pace in terms of court space. The prosecutor for the Jabiluka Ploughshares found himself triple booked on the 3rd. morning of their court hearing. Isaac, who had locked onto a truck heading for Jabiluka in June was keeping him busy in Court 5. Svea was also in court one on Jabiluka charges from early on in the Blockade.
When the prosecution resumed the arresting officer showed police video of the Ploughshares disarmament. On cross examination he admitted that he found the hammers, Nagasaki photos and spray paint carefully laid out. He also admitted that in July hundreds of people had informed him that Jabiluka posed a threat to human life and property to the Mirrar lands, Kakadu National Park, uranium's contribution to nuclear industry and waste disposal problems, to nuclear weapons production and risk of nuclear war. When asked if any official police investigation was carried out into these claims, the Prosecutor objected and the magistrate suppressed the question.
The prosecution then called the owner of the excavator, who said it was no concern of his if the mine threatened the Mirrar and their lands. The insurance assessor claimed $5,200 in restitution. This concluded the prosecution's case.
The defence case opened with Treena Lenthall telling the court of her Christian discipleship and her work with the poor. Treena then told the court she had been influenced by David Bradbury's video "Jabiluka" and asked the court to show this. The magistrate allowed the screening - and the last hour of today's hearing was the screening of the video.
The fourth day began with the remainder of Treena Lenthall's testimony. She tendered as evidence written information on the mine at Jabiluka which outlined the dangers that this mine poses to the ecological environment and the Mirrar people as well as its contribution to the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear weapons. She raised the issue of safeguards and Australian uranium, tendering an extract from Hansard. This was a 1988 ministerial statement from the Senate in which Senator Sanders said that there were no safeguards in relation to the sale of Australian Uranium and that there is no way of guaranteeing that uranium exported by Australia is not used for nuclear weapons. Loadman accepted the evidence but only as reflecting the state of mind of the defendants.
USE OF DEPLETED URANIUM
At a US Defence Department briefing held on May 7, 1999, Pentagon has confirmed the use of depleted uranium (DU) in the conflict with Yugoslavia. This is the third time in history that this dangerous metal is being used in weapons.
Bullets being fired by A-10 anti-tank aircraft and probably all Tomahawk Cruise missiles in the campaign Allied Force contain DU. The Coghill Research Laboratories from UK cite eminent radiation physicists who calculate that unprecedented use of DU inserts in Cruise missiles in Yugoslavia will have the same effect as Chernobil and the Three Mile Island disaster. DU is a waste product of the enrichment of uranium for military and civilian use. It is 40% less radioactive than natural uranium. The half life of this sort of uranium is 10 billion years. It pollutes the environment for a very long period of time. That's why it has as nickname "metal of dishonor". DU is used in shells because of it's low price and because of it's extreme density (1,7 times as dense as lead) which penetrates targets better.
The U.S. stockpile exceeds a billion pounds of this heavy metal. DU was used, for military purposes, for the first time during the Gulf War in the 1991.
The estimated amount of DU left around the Gulf War zone is between 350 and 750 tons.
As the shell hits its target, it burns and releases uranium oxide. This aerosol contains particles of DU 0.5-5 microns in size which, once they are in the air, can be carried by the wind and inhaled or ingested. DU is both radioactive and toxic. Once in the lungs, one such particle is equivalent to having one chest X-ray per hour for life. Because it is impossible to remove, the victim is gradually irradiated. There extensive reports from southern Iraq about a large increase of stillbirths, birth defects, leukemia and other cancers in children born since 1991. Some scientific researches indicates that DU could be responsible for the Gulf War syndrome from which thousands of US veterans suffer.
From a report by Dr. Bora Cvetkovic, a Serbian medic and Prof. Karel van der Leeuw from the University of Amsterdam, published on the A-Infos List 25 May 1999.
Lenthall referred to her decision to accept the invitation from the Mirrar to come to Kakadu to oppose the mine, describing how she had quit her jobs to come to Jabiluka. She had felt it was very serious that another uranium mine was being constructed in Australia. She spoke of her work with people who have disabilities and how they are a marginalised group in Australia whose voice is not often heard. She compared this to the Mirrar people who have been clearly saying no to this mine.
Lenthall spoke of how many people had chosen to come to Jabiluka to express their objections to the mine. She told the court that despite the hundreds of people going to the Jabiluka Lease site, alerting ERA, police and security of the dangers of this mine, these institutions had failed to act to stop the mine, leaving the defendants no alternative but to take action themselves.
Lenthall described the events of August 9th when she and O'Reilly disabled the excavator referring to the statement they had left at the site which had been presented as a police exhibit and tendered as evidence by the prosecution. Lenthall spoke of the ploughshares tradition and its inspiration, the prophesy of Isaiah, "to beat swords into ploughshares". She defined the uranium mine as the beginning of the nuclear war assembly line and said that as Christians we are called to love our neighbours and therefore must stop the preparation for war. She ended her testimony with a description of the liturgy of prayer undertaken on top of the excavator, praying for the victims of uranium and its byproducts.
Ciaron O'Reilly then gave his testimony describing how his awareness of the dangers of uranium had begun in his last year of high school (1977) when the Ranger Inquiry findings were handed down and a huge national debate on the mining and export of uranium began. This debate had been stifled in his home state of Queensland by the Bjelke Petersen state government that banned all demonstrations for 3 years. O'Reilly recounted a discussion he had at the time with a leading ruling National Party figure about their uranium sale contracts to the Shah of Iran. O'Reilly had suggested that the Shah's government did not seem to be stable enough to be selling such a dangerous material that remained radioactive for 250,000 years. The government official assured him the Shah was stable. The Shah fell within a year, most of Iran's trained nuclear technicians fled to the West and the new Iranian government was of a vastly different complexity. Also reflecting on the longlasting nature of uranium as a threat to human life he reminded the court that only 20 years ago that the Soviet Union appeared stable and many claimed it to be on the verge of world domination. The USSR has since imploded creating a myriad of safety and security issues for radioactive material. He cited a recent speech of former P.M. Paul Keating pointing to the resultant threat to humanity of these developments.
O'Reilly noted that many former leaders such as Carter, Eisenhower and Keating only seemed free to address the nuclear threat once they had left power. He suggested that the nuclear threat often transcends government and the democratic process. He cited the example of New Zealand's attempt to withdraw from nuclear war preparations in the 1980's after their government had been pushed by a huge domestic peace movement. As a result of this stand N.Z. Governments had faced coercion and acts of terror from the U.S. Australia and France. He described the A.L.P. Government being elected in 1983 on a policy to close all uranium mines and then betraying these policies.
He described his adult life as a member of the pacifist Catholic Worker movement living in communities in Australia, New Zealand, U.S. & U.K. responding to the needs of the poor and nonviolently confronting those institutions that created poverty and war. He told of four years spent in the U.S. where he had met many people involved in the nuclear weapons industry and military and had become convinced that they are ready to use such weapons if they perceive U.S. power seriously threatened. He described being in a Liverpool courtroom in July 1996 when 4 women were acquitted of any criminal act in relation to their $3 million disarmament of a British Aerospace Hawk Fighter being sold to the genocidal Suharto government.
He described returning to Australia this past March and being invited by the Mirrar people to come to Jabiluka to stop this uranium mine that was an imminent threat to their lives and the lives of others. He described his experiences at the Blockade camp in June & July when many alerts were made to local police about how the Jabiluka mine was threatening human life. He told how these claims went uninvestigated by local police.
O'Reilly then described the events of August 9th, that the force used by he and Lenthall was symbolic, actual and prayerful. He told how they had brought the powerful symbol of human blood to the excavator to remind those mining of the blood spilled and poisoned by uranium, nuclear waste, nuclear weapons and depleted uranium rounds. He had written "Nuremburg Principles" on the excavator as an appeal to the legal fraternity to remember their responsibilities in relation to genocide and the construction of genocidal weapons. He hoped they would remember their brother German judges, prosecutors and police executed for obeying and enforcing national law and not resisting preparations for genocide. He wrote "Love Your Enemies - Don't Poison & Bomb their Children" as an appeal to Christians to break their silent and active complicity with this mine. He wrote "Isaiah Strikes" as an appeal to the Jewish and Christian communities. He wrote "Nagasaki", "Chernobyl", "Missan" to remind all of our shared human history of these nuclear deaths.
He described how he and Lenthall actually disabled the excavator by hammering on the dashboard with household hammers and cutting internal wiring with boltcutters. He also told how he had cut a hole in the fence to gain access to the mine site and hoped the next person who came along would finish the job and bring down the entire fence.
O'Reilly then told the court how he and Lenthall spent over 40 minutes in prayer for the victims of uranium and this mine past, present and future. He told the court how he and Lenthall displayed a banner and called out hoping ERA security and others would join in the disarmament they had begun.
A physicist, Dr. Paul Dyson, was then called by the defence to testify to the extreme and longlasting nature of the danger to human life posed by uranium once it was unleashed from the ground. Dyson also described the threat to human life posed by nuclear weapons and depleted uranium. He told the court that U238 (depleted uranium) has a half life of 4 1/2 billion years, for it to totally break down would take roughly the age of the universe.
Darwin theologian, Uniting Church Minister Steve Orme, then testified. He told the court of the history of Christians confronting imminent danger posed by governments, citing examples from Nazi Germany, Martin Luther King Jr. and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. He located the Ploughshares movement and the action of Treena and Ciaron in a reasonable tradition within Christianity.
The fourth day concluded with Magistrate Loadman retiring to make a decision on verdict. He found that the prosecution had failed to prove Lenthall guilty of cutting the ERA fence, and found her not guilty of that charge. He told the defendants their bail was extended and that he would resume the hearing and deliver a verdict on December 14th. This followed legal submissions by Treena Lenthall and the Prosecutor and a general rap & rebuttal by Ciaron O'Reilly.
The court was crowded with supporters throughout the day's hearing.
PO Box 3818
Darwin NT 0801
Email from Treena Lenthall 15/12/98, ABC 14/12/98
by Marty Branagan
from Nonviolence Today #65 May-August 2000 (PDF)
I was angered to read Cairon O’Reilly’s article in NvT #64, where he attempts to justify his and Treena’s actions at Jabiluka on Nagasaki Day. He bemoans his lack of support because "movement bureaucrats denounced us." It wasn’t just movement bureaucrats (a cynical and derogatory term for the largely unpaid and selfless workers for social justice, the environment and peace) denouncing them. It was a huge cross-section of the camp, the Mirrar and the movement who were disgusted with their flagrant disregard for the Mirrar people’s sovereignty over their own land. I speak as one who was actively involved in the protest, in offices as a ‘movement bureaucrat’, in protests outside Westpac Banks, on the bike ride, at Jabiluka itself, then in jail and the court system. I was particularly disappointed since I had admired Cairon and most of his work since meeting him some fifteen years earlier.
The Mirrar are the traditional owners of Jab. That there are only twenty-seven Mirrar left does not detract from their land rights, much as the government and industry and Cairon would like it to. Rather it is a result of systematic dispossession and genocidal policies of the British occupying regime, usually justified by its paternalistic Christianity. As Kev Carmody writes, “Your left hand holds the bible while your right hand holds a gun, And you taught us Hey Black Woman Thou Shalt Not Steal.” Cairon, being like myself, of Irish extraction, should surely be aware of the effects of dispossession.
Cairon writes that for people in cities there are human rights struggles closer to their homes. Obviously. But Jabiluka is not in a city. It is situated in an internationally recognised piece of country, where the custodians still have close ties to the land. They have held firm against enormous pressure and inducements. Thousands of people chose to support them, and to travel huge distances to help their blockade. As part of social justice, and in common courtesy, we recognised them as the owners, and respected their right to know of and approve or disapprove of our actions.
Certainly the genocide in East Timor is atrocious. To say that it is more important than the Mirrar struggle is nitpicking, as at least the same percentage of Aboriginal people have been killed since the invasion of Australia. It reminds me of Malaysia’s Mahatir, who says we can’t complain about what they’re doing to the Penan because Aboriginal people are treated so badly here. The fact is that the Jabiluka protest was on Mirrar land: to directly contravene their wishes on some supposed higher moral ground is paternalism at its worst. The greatest hypocrisy was that Cairon and Treena then put out a press release citing the need to support land rights as one of the reasons for their actions!
I am aware that the struggle against the nuclear industry is a pressing one, as I have long been part of it. However, there are plenty of places one can demonstrate against it without muscling in on or using someone else’s blockade, particularly if those people are indigenous and have already been trampled on for centuries by holier-than-thou Westerners.
Defenders of Native Title website.
Jabiluka Action Group
Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation
Representing the Mirrar people, on whose land the proposed mine site is.
Understand why Ciaron and Treena acted to destroy uranium mining equipment at Jabiluka.
Anti-Uranium Coalition of WA - excellent website
The Sustainable Energy and Anti-Uranium Service - great resource.
Sustainable Energy & Anti-Uranium Service Inc. (SEA-US) is a community based organisation established to promote and publish information on safe and sustainable energy production, a nuclear free world and anti-uranium mining issues.
Trident Ploughshares 2000 Website - A site devoted to the non-violent direct action dismantling of the Trident nuclear submarine weapons of nuclear war in Scotland.