Tuesday, 21 October 2008


Unity of purpose in the French banlieues
By Liz Fekete
9 October 2008, 2:00pm


For the second year running, French grassroots anti-racist associations joined forces to organise the Social Forum of the Banlieues (FSQP, Le Forum Social des Quartiers Populaires).

This unique and exciting gathering, attended by over 500 people from across the country, was held over three days (3-5 October) in the northern Parisian suburb (banlieue) of Nanterre.
The Forum's roots

The roots of the Forum go back to 2005 and the biggest 'riots' France has witnessed since the May 1968 student protests. The revolt of the youth, which began in the poor eastern Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, soon spread to every major city in France. Triggered by the deaths of two youths of African origin, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré (attempting to evade police pursuit following an identity check they climbed into a power station and were electrocuted), it led the government of President Chirac to declare a national state of emergency.[1] Soon afterwards, grassroots organisations made the 'Call for the National Social Forum of the Banlieues'.[2] Fed up with the media demonisation of the banlieues as 'the lost territories of the Republic',[3] and 'no-go areas' populated by 'scum' and savages', these associations sought to establish through a collective mode of organisation a unity of purpose which would counter local fragmentation of the struggle for social and political rights. Thus, from the outset, the Forum was designed to 'be a place of reflection and a meeting place of different local struggles', while 'offering them political visibility at a national level'.

The history of Nanterre

When North African and other immigrant workers first came to France, principally from Algeria. Morocco and Tunisia in the 1950s and 1960s, social housing was not provided. The new immigrant workers were forced to occupy the most marginal of housing conditions in the squalid shanty towns (bidonvilles) surrounding the major cities of France. It was fitting, then, that this year's Forum was held in Nanterre for, in the 1960s, Nanterre (then an industrial area) had been the site of one of France's largest bidonville (thirteen shanty towns with a population of 8,000 - half of whom were women and children). Today, the children and grandchildren of these first immigrant workers live alongside the undocumented and marginalised in the huge sprawling estates which towered over the conference venue (a series of marquees in the Parc André Malraux). Close by was the gleaming glass of city-skyscrapers and the gentrified housing estates and gated communities which are now home to better-off Parisians.

Unity in action

Just about every French minority community was represented at the Forum - Black, White, French-Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians and (sub-Saharan) Africans, etc as well as, of course, the sans papiers represented by the Committee from the 9th Arrondisement. An enormous range of issues was discussed in raw, and often heated (but always democratic) debate: racism, discrimination, educational exclusion, social housing, police violence and media stigmatisation; Islamophobia, feminism, colonialism and its legacy (particularly in the French Overseas Departments); the war on terror and Palestine, an issue that is part of the very heart-beat of the banlieue. What emerged from the debates was the strong unity of purpose of communities fighting as a people, and as a class.

One of the most important themes discussed at the Forum was the destruction of social housing - all part of Sarkozy's urban renovation plans (read gentrification of the banlieue and demolition of estates and dispersal of inhabitants). The session on police violence was addressed by civil rights activists campaigning around recent deaths in custody, such as that of Lamine Dieng in Paris in June 2007, Reda Semmoudi in Seine Saint Denis in January 2008 and Abdelhakim Hadijmi in Grasse in May 2008. The justice and policing session was accompanied by a moving exhibition, with photographs and campaign literature recalling the many young men (mostly North Africans) who have died over the years in police custody or suspicious circumstances involving the police. The exhibition also recalled the tragic events of 17 October 1961 when the Paris police vented its fury at Algerian immigrant workers rallying in support of Algerian independence and in opposition to the nightly curfew. As many as 200 Algerians died when police drove the demonstrators into the Seine where they drowned; others were clubbed to death.

Cultures of resistance

The Forum was not just about political discussion. There was a Cinéma des Quartiers, theatre and other cultural events. The first theatrical performance on the opening night of the Forum was by Al Houda, a Muslim feminist organisation from Rennes. Its production 'Le son du tissus', (The sound of cloth), a one-woman performance explored the personal impact of the stigmatisation and exclusion from society of Muslim women who wear the headscarf. It was based on Al Houda's experiences with French feminists who, amongst other things, banned it from taking part in their annual event on International Women's Day (on the grounds that wearing the veil is incompatible with feminism). Islamophobia and the veil was also discussed the following day in a seminar where school teacher and writer Pierre Tévanian and social activist Ismahane Chouder discussed their new book, Les Filles voilées parlent (Veiled Girls speak out). The book explores the experiences of stigmatisation and exclusion of fourty-four French Muslim girls following the introduction of the 2004 law against the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in schools.

What next?

In the Forum's final session, participants discussed their ideas for the future. Just as in the UK, activists were anxious about increasing alienation of young people and much of the focus was on strategic interventions capable of reaching out to them. The many documentaries and cultural films broadcast at the Forum are to be shown in community venues. And there was talk of extending the forum into regional forums, addressing national themes.


[1] As many observers noted at the time, the last occasion the State of Emergency was applied by the French government was in Algeria in 1961.

[2] See <>ovements/index.php/art_0000003>.

[3] In 2002, a book entitled 'The Lost Territories of the Republic: anti-Semitism, racism and sexism in the educational sphere', edited by the Holocaust historian Georges Bensoussan (under the pseudonym Emmanuel Brenner) blamed problems of violence in schools on 'Arabic-Muslim culture'. Following that, it became fashionable for the media to talk of the banlieues as the lost territories of the Republic. Liz Fekete is head of European research at the Institute of Race Relations. She is currently conducting a two-year research project on 'Alternative Voices on Integration' funded by the Network of European Foundations (European Programme on Integration and Migration).

Friday, 17 October 2008


Russian navy ships head to maneuvers in Venezuela

MOSCOW – A Russian navy squadron set off for Venezuela Monday, an official said, in a deployment of Russian military power to the Western Hemisphere unprecedented since the Cold War.

The Kremlin recently has moved to intensify contacts with Venezuela, Cuba and other Latin American nations amid increasingly strained relations with Washington after last month's war between Russia and Georgia. During the Cold War, Latin America became an ideological battleground between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Russian navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said the nuclear-powered Peter the Great cruiser accompanied by three other ships sailed from the Northern Fleet's base of Severomorsk on Monday. The ships will cover about 15,000 nautical miles to conduct joint maneuvers with the Venezuelan navy, he told The Associated Press.

The deployment follows a weeklong visit to Venezuela by a pair of Russian strategic bombers and comes as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — an unbridled critic of U.S. foreign policy who has close ties with Moscow — plans to visit Moscow this week. It will be Chavez's second trip to Russia in about two months.

The intensifying contacts with Venezuela appear to be a response to the U.S. dispatch of warships to deliver aid to Georgia which angered the Kremlin.

Chavez said in an interview with Russian television broadcast Sunday that Latin America needs a strong friendship with Russia to help reduce U.S. influence and keep peace in the region. In separate comments on his Sunday TV and radio program, he joked that he will be making his international tour to Russia and other countries this week aboard the "super-bombers that Medvedev loaned me," a reference to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. "Gentlemen of the CIA, to be clear, I'm joking," Chavez said with a laugh.

Chavez has repeatedly warned that the U.S. Navy poses a threat to Venezuela.

Russia has signed weapons contracts worth more than $4 billion with Venezuela since 2005 to supply fighter jets, helicopters, and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. Chavez's government is in talks to buy Russian submarines, air defense systems and armored vehicles and more Sukhoi fighter jets.

Russian and Venezuelan leaders also have talked about boosting cooperation in the energy sphere to create what Chavez has called "a new strategic energy alliance."

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who visited Venezuela last week, announced that five of Russia's biggest oil companies are looking to form a consortium to increase Latin American operations and to build a $6.5 billion refinery to process Venezuela's tar-like heavy crude. Such an investment could help Venezuela, the world's ninth-biggest oil producer, wean itself from the U.S. refineries on which it depends to process much of its crude.

Sechin warned the United States that it should not view Latin America as its own backyard. "It would be wrong to talk about one nation having exclusive rights to this zone," he said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

Thursday, 16 October 2008


A Limping West Sees a Confident China
Sukant Chandan*

China returned back into the Western media spotlight this
last year. While the Western press went into over-drive in
its negative reporting of China in the lead up to the
awe-inspiringly successful Beijing Olympics over the Tibet
riots, at the same time people in the West could not
completely ignore the many impressive aspects of Chinese
society and government. Few could ignore the stark contrast
between the social and political system and leadership of
Peoples Republic of China and that of the West,
particularly the USA.

The Sichuan earthquake and its tragic consequences for the
Chinese people saw the swift reaction of the Chinese
government with Premier Wen Jiabao rushing off to the
earthquake epicentre minutes after it occurred, as well as
the massive mobilisation of the Peoples Liberation Army,
Communist Party and other social organisations in the
service of those affected. Many people have contrasted this
with Bush's cowardice when he flew thousands of feet in the
air above New Orleans after the floods and government
incompetence left many residents of the city, especially
the Black and working classes sure that their President is
not working for their interests.

China's holding of the most impressive Olympics to date was
soon followed by another historic achievement in being only
the third country in the world to have sent astronauts for
a space walk. Today China is showing that while the West is
quivering on an economic and financial precipice it is
distinguishing itself as economically calm and in control,
and furthermore confidently planning additional economic
and social development for its people.

The last thirty years or so has not only seen China
accomplishing great strides for its own people and nation
in terms of economic growth, but these developments have
also impacted internationally as statistics released by the
World Bank last year showed that in the last two decades
China accounted for 67 percent of the achievements in
global poverty reduction. Today China is playing a crucial
role in the world economy with Western leaders queuing up
to request money from its massive currency reserves to bail
them out from the current financial capitalist crisis.

China has made it clear that it is committed to
contributing to a stable world economy. However this does
not mean that China will necessarily be ready and willing
to bail out the West indefinitely, China has to think of
its own economic well-being. China's position is that the
best contribution it can make to the world economy is to
maintain its own strong and relatively fast growth. Indeed,
a strong and economically successful China means the rest
of the world; especially the countries of the South have a
major world economic trading partner in China that treats
them with respect and friendship.

China has shown its economic self-confidence in the last
few weeks while Western governments are running scatter
shot by the financial crisis. The Central Committee of the
Communist Party of China announced agricultural reforms
intended to double farmers' incomes by 2020, stating
further that "the country's overall economic situation is
good. The economy is growing quickly and the financial
sector is operating steadily. The basic momentum of the
country's economy remains unchanged".

There are many reasons why China will not suffer the same
economic fate as Western nations: at a time when there is
capital flight from the West, China experiences capital
inflows. Mortgage assets and the housing market in China
shows much greater stability and strength compared to the
very shaky and risky mortgages and lending set-up in the
West epitomised by the 'sub-prime' crisis. Amongst other
problems China faces difficulties from high energy costs
and pressure from inflation, but the country still has
massive untapped potential despite global uncertainties
because of its large working population and a vast domestic
market. China of course cannot remain wholly immune from
the adverse effects of the present financial crisis, but
vitally China is not at the mercy of modern-day capitalism,
indeed capitalism in China is at the mercy of the Communist
Party and the socialist system, and this people-centred
economic planning enables China to avoid that which is
taking place in the West.

The full extent of the political fall-out for international
capitalism in this Great Crash remains to be seen. Even if
it manages to limp away from this crisis, the crash the
next time will overshadow the current one, of this no
honest commentator can deny. However, in the midst of all
this people can learn from the positive lessons that China
demonstrates and not be taken in by the duplicitous
behaviour of many Western leaders as they on the one hand
mouth-off and encourage subtle sinophobic anti-communism
and then, as in the case of Bush recently, phone Chinese
President Hu Jintao asking for hand-outs.

Peoples and nations of the world, including in the West,
are interested in building an alternative international
economic order where development is under the control and
in the interests of the masses. This is a challenge which
is being taken up by countries from Venezuela to Vietnam
who believe in a truly multi-polar world, a world that has
no place for US hegemony and aggression or economic
precariousness. Nations and peoples of the world,
particularly those of the South are developing their ties
of friendship, trade and cultural exchanges with China.
Those involved in progressive cultural and social movements
in West may also want to develop a mutually respectful
relationship with a country which is putting into practice
on an enormous scale the principles of peace and social
progress in which we believe. As Malcolm X used to say in
the early 1960s when the US vetoed China's membership of
the United Nations, no-one can ignore 800 million Chinese
people who have stood up. Since then China has made many
strides and stands as one of the biggest allies for
progressive change in the world today; something which
today cannot be ignored. This Great Crash, as well as the
failed 'War on Terror' is teaching people across the world
in the words of a recent Peoples Daily editorial in China
that the financial crisis is a manifestation of the
dead-end of liberalism and the destruction of the myth of
all-powerful American institutions.


*An edited version of this article appeared in the Morning
Star. Sukant Chandan is Chair of Friends of China and can
be contacted at sukant.chandan@gmail.com

Friday, 10 October 2008


Obama is a traitor, cry McCain supporters

The Independent
Crowds at Republican rallies hurl insults at Democrat candidate

By Leonard Doyle in Washington Friday, 10 October 2008

Rallies for John McCain and Sarah Palin are becoming
rabble-rousing events where warm-up speakers encourage
unruly crowds to vent hatred for the Democratic contender,
Barack Obama. Cat-calls of "traitor", "criminal" and
"terrorist" have been heard.

The McCain campaign protests that it does not condone such
behaviour and does not want to see it happen. But in the
closely contested states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania,
a campaign that had been confined to the internet is coming
into full public view. One of the main things that the
Obama campaign's "Fight The Smears" unit have been battling
are the false rumour that their candidate is Muslim. At a
6,000-strong rally in Pennsylvania this week, as the two
candidates on the Republican ticket waited backstage, a
senior party member asked the crowd how they would feel
about having a president with the middle name Hussein.

"Think about how you'll feel on 5 November if you wake up
and see the news, that Barack Obama – that's Barack Hussein
Obama – is the president-elect of the United States," said
Bill Platt, the Lehigh County Republican chairman. The
crowed booed, jeered and hissed at the very thought. Then
another speaker, Peg Ferraro, denounced the Democratic
candidate's "background and affiliations", saying they were
"questionable" and asking: "Do we know who his friends

The remarks were later condemned by the McCain campaign as
"inappropriate rhetoric, which distracts from the real
questions of judgement, character, and experience".

Yet the fact remains that – falling badly behind in polls
and with dwindling amounts of cash to finance TV adverts –
Mr McCain needs any ammunition he can find to break his
rival's momentum. He avoided attacking Mr Obama on a
personal level at this week's debate in Nashville but his
running mate and Republican officials have been whipping up
the party faithful.

When Mrs Palin accused Mr Obama of "palling around" with
terrorists, in Florida this week, one member of the
audience was heard to yell "Kill Him". And audience jeers
of "terrorist", "bum" and "liar" peppered an address by Mr
McCain in Pennsylvania. Cindy McCain, in a departure from
normally mild public remarks, has also cast aspersions on
Mr Obama's patriotism. "Let me tell you, the day Senator
Obama decided to cast a vote not to fund my son when he was
serving sent a cold chill through my body," she told the

The Democrat's number two, Joe Biden, said such tactics
were "dangerous", accusing Republicans of choosing "to
appeal to fear with a veiled question: Who is the real
Barack Obama?"

Mr Obama is leading in swing states and the latest Gallup
tracking poll gave him an 11-point lead nationally. He is
also outstripping McCain in spending on advertising, paying
$3.3m (£1.9m) for TV spots on Monday alone, compared to the
Republican's $900,000. So, while the Republicans attack Mr
Obama, the Democrat can afford to counter-attack and
promote his presidential qualities and personal narrative.

Mr Obama has noted that his rival shied away from attacking
him in the same room during Tuesday's debate. "I am
surprised that, you know, we've been seeing some pretty
over-the-top attacks coming out of the McCain campaign over
the last several days, that he wasn't willing to say it to
my face."

It remains to be seen whether Mr McCain will wheel out the
big guns at next Wednesday's third and final debate in
Hempstead, Long Island.

Thursday, 9 October 2008


“Georgia must rebuild its ties to Russia”
Wednesday, 08 October 2008
Interview with Lasha Shawdia, Anti-war Movement Georgia
Anti-Imperialist Camp

Q: Did Georgia’s president Saakashvili emerge from his war of last summer weakened or strengthened?

Definitely weakened. It is a tragic mistake to believe that the territorial integrity of our country can be resorted by military means, a mistake to be paid for by the Georgian people. The defeat was predictable. Russia had repeatedly declared that it will rush to the defense of South Ossetia – different to 1990.

Q: Many signs indicate that a majority wants to follow their president into NATO.

This is not true. In early 2008 a referendum was held where supposedly 79% voted for the accession to NATO. But these are no real figures, especially after the war. The war demonstrated that the assumption, that NATO could secure the territorial integrity of Georgia, is wrong. On the contrary, NATO means more conflicts and less stability.

Q: You refer to the territorial integrity but would you accept the autonomy which South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Adjaria enjoyed in the period of the Soviet Union?

Stalin is being blamed form all sides to have established the autonomies. But the statute did not originate from the USSR, it is older. It was indeed chartered in the Soviet Union but it only displayed actual power relations. After the decay of the Tsarist empire South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Adjara became de facto independent, similar to the recent past. They have been integrated into Georgia with their autonomy rights right from the start.

Only its socialist character of Georgia made that possible. Today many people do not want to hear that but those three peoples were well off in the Soviet Union. This historic record cannot be erased although all three sides try to do so, namely the leaderships of Georgia, South Ossetia and Russia.

Q: Why then the USSR did not merge South and North Ossetia?

First of all for economic reasons because they are separated by the peaks of the Caucasus. South Ossetia used to be mainly connected with Georgia and also in the future another economic integration will not be possible.

Q: Again, what do you think of the restoration of the autonomy?

The South Ossetians themselves refuse the autonomy offered by the government. We insist on the restoration of the territorial integrity of Georgia and do not support the disintegration. But with a government in Tblisi which wants to join NATO at any cost, this is not possible. We support South Ossetia and Abkhazia inasfar as they struggle against the accession into NATO. We are for the unity of Georgia in friendship with Russia.

Q: Why the South Ossetians refused the offer?

Because Tbilisi is following NATO and Washington which is being refused by both Ossetians and Abkhazians. And one should not underestimate the enormous Russian influence.

The situation could be compared with the one in Transnistria. There they go for a confederative solution by the mediation of Moscow. Although the Moldavian government does ogle with NATO, it was keen not to completely alienate Russia.

Q: Are you ready to sit on one table with South Ossetians and Abkhazians?

Certainly, we commonly fight against NATO and the war waged by the pro-American forces. We are the ones in the Georgian society with whom the South Ossetians and Abkhazians should seek good relations with.

Q: What are the chances of the anti-NATO forces in Georgia?

The propaganda apparatus set in motion by NATO is very powerful. There is for example not a single TV channel which counters this line. Nevertheless the popular sentiments changed after the war. Many understood that the rapprochement with NATO does not serve the interests of the people and that friendly relations with Russia are indispensible. Furthermore we need to be part of the Russian economic area in order to revive our economy. Maybe the relationship of forces between those two lines is 50:50.

If you take for example a look at our neighbor Armenia our geostrategic situation is, however, different. There all are pro-Russian regardless whether they are right or left wing. This flows from history and the difficult relations to Turkey which continue up to now.

Q: Are you able to co-operate with the official opposition to Saakashvili?

It is a right wing opposition fully aligned with him in the war and equally pro-Western and pro-NATO.

Q: Are you allowed to freely express your positions?

Public protest against NATO today is impossible in Georgia. I myself was detained and tortured in the aftermath of the war. The Communist Party is declared a terrorist group and any opposition against the war is labeled destructive force. A kind of Georgian Patriot Act has been enacted, which de facto bans us.

Q: What you think about Chechnya?

The Chechen tragedy was induced by Yeltsin. He set up a regime which followed the interest of the capitalist oligarchy and led a wrong policy with regard to the nationalities. He betrayed the Russian people and steamrolled the Chechens with tanks. Putin just treads in his footsteps.

We are opposed to the disintegration of the Russian Federation but this aim must be reached by different methods. If Moscow does not change his policy it will create new problems in the Caucasus as we face them too.

Monday, 6 October 2008


Democratic socialism


I did not want to write a third consecutive reflection, but
I can not leave this until Monday.

There is one accurate response to Bush’s "democratic
capitalism:" Chavez’ democratic socialism. There couldn’t
be a more accurate way to express the great contradiction
that exists between North and South in our hemisphere,
between the ideas of Bolívar and those of Monroe.

Bolívar’s great merit was having stated it at a time when
modern means of communication did not exist — not even the
Panama Canal. There was no U.S. imperialism. There were
just the English-speaking Thirteen Colonies which, united,
gained their independence in 1776 with the support of
France and Spain.

The Liberator, as if he were capable of seeing through
centuries ahead of his own time, proclaimed in 1829: "The
United States seems destined by Providence to plague
America with misery in the name of liberty."

Hugo Chávez is a Venezuelan soldier. In his mind, Bolívar’s
ideas germinated naturally. Suffice it to observe the way
in which his thinking went through different political
stages, starting from his humble origin, school, military
academy, his readings of history, the reality of his
country and the humiliating presence of Yankee domination.

He was not a general; he didn’t have any armed institution
under his command. He didn’t perpetrate a coup d’état; nor
could he do so. He did not want to wait; nor could he. He
rebelled; he took full responsibility for events and turned
prison into a school. He conquered the sympathy of the
people and gained their support for his cause while being
out of government. He won the elections under a bourgeois
Constitution. He took an oath under that agonizing document
and swore allegiance to a new Constitution. He clashed with
both right and left preconceived ideas and started the
Bolivarian Revolution in the midst of the most difficult
subjective conditions in the whole Latin America.

For 10 years, as president of his country, he has not
ceased to sow ideas inside and outside his homeland. No
honest person should have any doubt that there is a true
Revolution in progress in Venezuela, and there is also an
exceptional struggle being waged against imperialism. It is
worth mentioning that Chávez does not rest, not even for a
single minute. He struggles inside Venezuela and at the
same time he systematically travels to the capitals of
Latin American countries as well as to important nations in
Europe, Asia and Africa.

He communicates, hour by hour, with the national and
international press. He is not afraid to address any issue;
he is listened to with respect by the main leaders in the
world. He makes correct and efficient use of the real power
his country has —the largest proven oil reserves in the
world, in addition to abundant gas— and he is designing an
unprecedented national and internationalist program.

With the signing of an association agreement between
Russia’s Gazprom and Venezuela’s PDVSA for the prospecting
and exploitation of hydrocarbons, he has created a
consortium in that field that is equal to none in the
world. His economic association with China and Russia,
certain countries in Europe and others in Latin America and
Africa with abundant resources, has released the liberating
forces that will pave the way towards a multipolar world.
He did not exclude the United States from the energy supply
or the commercial exchange programs. That is an objective
and balanced conception.

He thinks about a socialist revolution for his own
homeland, without excluding important productive factors.
At this historical juncture, after being hit by nature and
the criminal ravages of the decadent empire, our country is
truly privileged t be able to count on Chavez’s solidarity.
We have never heard a more internationalist and fraternal
phrase than the one he said to our people: "The country of
Venezuela is also your country!"

Imperialism is trying to get rid of him politically or
eliminate him physically no matter the cost, without
realizing that his death would be a disaster for Venezuela
as well as for the economies and the stability of all other
governments of Latin America and the Caribbean.

My conversations with him are characterized by one point of
view I defend: at this point in time, the most important
thing is to save Venezuela from the political onslaught of
the U.S. government. During his last visit we discussed the
magnitude of the assistance he is giving to us as well as
the assistance he wishes to give to us, and our suggestion
that he should concentrate the largest possible amount of
resources on the domestic battle that he is waging today
against the offensive launched by the media and the
conditioned reflexes that imperialism has been creating for
many years.

From now until November 23, the battle to be waged will be
of great transcendence, and we don’t want his support for
Cuba to be used as a pretext for damaging the Bolivarian

The 92 Venezuelan construction workers who are members of
the Socialist Voluntary Work Brigades sent to build houses
in Pinar del Río are a real symbol of our times.

We are living through very important moments. The popular
referendum to approve the new Constitution in Ecuador the
day after tomorrow will be of great significance. Chávez
will meet with President Lula in Brazil on Monday. Tonight
there is a televised debate between Obama and McCain. All
of this is important news.

That is why I did not want to leave writing these lines for
Monday. Tomorrow, Saturday, Chávez will be back in his
country and on Sunday he will address his people. He always
uses something from these reflections in his battle.

Por Fidel Castro Ruz / Granma Internacional / MinCI

Thursday, 2 October 2008


[Thanks to Whenua Fenua Enua Vanua ]

National Indigenous Times

Lex Wotton, the Aboriginal man accused of leading a riot on Palm Island in 2004 following the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee was due to appear in Brisbane Magistrate’s Court next week.

His trial has been postponed again, this time until October 6.

For legal reasons, the National Indigenous Times is not permitted to report in any significant detail the circumstances immediately surrounding the torching of the Palm Island police station, barracks and court house, nor are we allowed to report or comment on the treatment of Lex Wotton by Queensland police subsequent to his arrest.

All those matters, our lawyers advise us, are for the courts.

So if we’re not allowed to focus on Wotton’s behaviour, then we’ll focus instead on the actions of the Queensland Police.

In this special NIT feature, we re-visit the coronial findings into the death of Mulrunji, in particular the many discrepancies between the evidence provided by police, and the evidence put forward by other witnesses. By CHRIS GRAHAM.

The first thing that you need to understand about the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee is that the happy-go-lucky 36-year-old should never have been arrested in the first place.

On November 19, 2004 Mulrunji was walking home from a relative’s house. The time was shortly after 10am.

Mulrunji was pretty drunk. An autopsy revealed that his blood alcohol level was almost 0.3, six times the legal driving limit.

Still, Mulrunji was on foot - he wasn’t breaking any laws. It’s not yet illegal to walk down a street with a ‘skinful’, even in Queensland.

As Mulrunji turned into Dee Street, he came across a not unusual scene for a ‘morning after’ on Palm Island - police were in the process of arresting a young Aboriginal man, Patrick Bramwell.

The arresting officer was Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, a veteran of more than 17 years in the Queensland Police Service.

With Hurley was Aboriginal Police Liaison Officer, Lloyd Bengaroo, a Palm Island local whose job it was to act as an link between locals and the cops.

According to Hurley, Bramwell - who was being loud and abusive towards an elderly Aboriginal woman - had committed the offence of ‘public nuisance’.

As he walked past, Mulrunji remarked to Bengaroo (who he knew) that he shouldn’t be locking up his own kind.

Bengaroo warned Mulrunji to move on or he too would find himself under arrest.

Mulrunji complied, but about 30 metres from the vehicle, he apparently turned and called back three words that would cost him very dearly: “You f**king c**ts”.

Hurley decided that Mulrunji should go for public nuisance as well. Of course, the only members of the ‘public’ Mulrunji had annoyed was a cop and a liaison officer. Regardless, after loading Bramwell in the van, Hurley and Bengaroo set off after Mulrunji, who had continued walking home. He was duly arrested and bundled into the back of the wagon with Bramwell.

The accusation levelled against Bramwell and Mulrunji constitutes the first in a trio of charges that law enforcement officials call ‘having a punt’.

It goes like this: A person is arrested for a trivial offence, such as public nuisance or offensive language. The person objects to being arrested, often on the grounds that police are more foul-mouthed than most criminals. The person becomes more aggressive at the notion of a trumped up charge, and suddenly finds himself facing the additional charge of resisting arrest.

Even more infuriated, the ‘offender’ struggles harder, and a ‘fight’ ensues.

An incident that began as a verbal exchange between a cop and a citizen has led to a man facing charges which could attract some serious prison time.

Police call the three offences ‘the trifecta’. The practice has been around for decades, but admittedly happens less frequently these days (although that’s in no small part due to the fact most magistrates today are aware of the practice, and many keep a watch out for it with a view to dismissing the charges).

It’s a moot point whether or not Hurley was ‘having a punt’ that morning, because Mulrunji never lived long enough to be formally charged with any crime.

Even so, Coroner Clement’s view of the basis for the arrest was withering. She noted in her findings that Mulrunji was not a “trouble-maker”, had never been arrested on Palm Island and was not known to Hurley or other police.

“It was completely unjustified to decide to arrest, particularly if that decision was solely influenced by a desire to check the computer for any outstanding warrants. That is not a basis for arrest.

“The arrest of Mulrunji was not an appropriate exercise of police discretion... Mulrunji had heeded the warning and walked on without further involving himself in proceedings.”

At this point, Mulrunji’s fate wasn’t quite sealed. He could have gone quietly, slept it off at the watchhouse and been released later that day, possibly without charge, but probably not without a lecture from Hurley.

But after the police vehicle completed the short drive to the Palm Island Police station, Mulrunji made a decision that would ultimately cost him his life. When Hurley opened the rear cage to remove the prisoners, Mulrunji lashed out.

He struck Hurley on the chin with the back of his closed fist.

Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley - a mountain of a man at 200cm tall, weighing 115 kilograms - was not used to his authority being challenged. Within minutes, Mulrunji would sustain horrendous injuries that would end his life within the hour.

A struggle ensued, with Hurley trying to push Mulrunji through the back door of the police station, and Mulrunji resisting.

Both men lost their balance as they negotiated a single step. They crashed through the doorway of the watchhouse, landing on the floor inside.

Hurley maintained in at least three subsequent interviews with investigators that he finished on his knees beside Mulrunji, who landed on his back.

There was no way, Hurley maintained, that he had landed on top of Mulrunji.

Unbeknown to Hurley, the unfolding events were being watched by Roy Bramwell, a Palm Island resident who was sitting in the police station waiting to be interviewed over another matter.

Bramwell told investigators that after falling to the floor, Hurley stood up over Mulrunji and began assaulted him, striking him three times and then kicking him. Bramwell said his view was slightly obscured by a filing cabinet, but that he saw “... Chris’ elbow going up and down” over Mulrunji’s body and that he heard Hurley saying, “You want more Mr Doomadgee, you want more? Have you had enough Mr Doomadgee?”

A police officer who was outside the watchhouse at the time confirmed to the coronial inquiry that Hurley was yelling at Mulrunji in an abusive tone immediately after they crashed through the doorway.

For his part, Hurley maintains that even though Mulrunji struck him in the jaw, he never assaulted Mulrunji in any way.

The autopsy of Mulrunji’s body tells a different story.

Medical examiners revealed that Mulrunji died of a ruptured liver. He had been struck so hard, in fact, that his liver had been forced backwards onto his spine, causing it to be almost “cleaved in two” by the bones.

He also suffered four fractured right ribs.

Externally, it looked as though Mulrunji had suffered only minor injuries.

“The only external sign of injury was a small oval abrasion in the centre of the right eyebrow measuring 0.4 centimetres by 0.2 centimetres which was bleeding slightly,” the coroner reported.

“The right upper eyelid was swollen but there was no haemorrhage of the right eye.”

But a second autopsy “... also found some deep bruising immediately adjacent to the right side of the mandible and a small (3 centimetre) scalp contusion on the right frontotemporal region of the scalp.”

In laymen’s terms, Mulrunji had a cut above his right eye, and he had sustained a significant bruise on the right side of his jaw, in addition to bruising on the right side of his scalp.

Coroner Clements notes: “Dr Lynch agreed that the force applied to Mulrunji’s body must have been from the front... of the body or perhaps the right hand side of the body.

“He agreed that this logically would mean Mulrunji was on his back or on his left hand side.

“It would be difficult in such a scenario to then explain the injury to the right eye as being incurred in the course of such a fall.”

Indeed, it’s just as difficult to explain how Mulrunji received a deep bruise to his right jaw and the right side of his scalp if he fell onto his back or left side.

So how did Mulrunji end up with three separate injuries to the right side of his head? We may never know, but it certainly gives new significance to the claims by Roy Bramwell that he saw Hurley’s elbow go up and down over Mulrunji three times.

Coroner Clements doesn’t necessarily accept that the blows were to Mulrunji’s head, although she doesn’t discount it either.

“I reject Senior Sergeant Hurley’s account that he then simply got up from the heavy fall through the doorway and went to assist the man who had just punched him and caused him to fall over.

“I find that Senior Sergeant Hurley hit Mulrunji whilst he was on the floor a number of times in a direct response to himself having been hit in the jaw and then falling to the floor.

“I do not necessarily conclude that this force was to Mulrunji’s head as stated by Mr Bramwell. He could not have been in a position to see Mulrunji’s head from where he was seated. Mulrunji’s feet and part of his legs was all he could see.

“It is open on Bramwell’s evidence that the force was applied to Mulrunji’s body rather then his head. This is also consistent with the medical evidence of the injuries that caused Mulrunji’s death.

“It is also most likely that it was at this time that Mulrunji suffered the injury to his right eye.”

Having dragged a now submissive Mulrunji to his cell without even a proper search - a cigarette lighter was later found in Mulrunji’s pocket during the autopsy - Hurley then set about ignoring the cries of agony from the man he had just mortally wounded.

“Mulrunji cried out for help from the cell after being fatally injured, and no help came,” Coroner Clements found.

“The images from the cell video tape of Mulrunji, writhing in pain as he lay dying on the cell floor, were shocking and terribly distressing to family and anyone who sat through that portion of the evidence.

“The sounds from the cell surveillance tape are unlikely to be forgotten by anyone who was in court and heard that tape played.

“There is clear evidence that this must have been able to be heard from the police station dayroom where the monitor was running.

“Indeed the timing of Senior Sergeant Hurley’s visit to the cell suggests that the sounds were heard.

“But the response was completely inadequate and offered no proper review of Mulrunji’s condition or call for medical attention.”

The ‘response’ was Hurley walking into the cell shortly before 11am and ‘nudging’ Mulrunji with his foot, then leaving.

He later told investigators: “I did the first check - I actually did a physical check - where I opened up the cell and walked in. And the reason I did that was because there were two prisoners there. With one normally you can crouch down beside the cell and hear them breathing, whatever. With two I actually walked in. They were laying down there - both asleep and both were snoring.”

In fact, Mulrunji was not snoring, nor was he sleeping. He was dying. Video footage shows Patrick Bramwell trying to comfort Mulrunji during the last minutes of his life.

At 11.23am, Sergeant Michael Leafe checked on the prisoners. He noticed that Mulrunji was not breathing and felt unusually cold.

Hurley told investigators that when he first realised Mulrunji wasn’t breathing, he checked for a pulse and thought he felt something. In hindsight, he said he later dismissed this as feeling the rush of his own adrenaline in reaction to the situation.

The coroner noted that she found this remark “perplexing”, because despite telling investigators that he felt a pulse, Hurley concedes that he never at any stage attempted resuscitation.

Mulrunji Doomadgee - a healthy 36-year-old Aboriginal man with a partner and young son, was dead on the floor of a police cell. He had died less than an hour after being arrested for no good reason.

Video footage of the cell after Mulrunji’s death shows Hurley leaning with his back against the wall. He slides down the wall until he slumps on the floor, his head in his hands.

At 115 kilos, Hurley is a very big man. Big enough, obviously, to inflict mortal wounds on Mulrunji Doomadgee.

But Hurley wasn’t big enough to tell the Doomadgee family that Mulrunji was dead.

So instead he lied.

Later that day, family members visited the station and asked Hurley if they could visit Mulrunji.

Hurley told them he was sleeping.

Finally, at 4pm - five hours after the death - the police came clean, although the job of informing the family fell to another officer.

The evidence that Hurley caused the death of Mulrunji is overwhelming. Even Hurley now accepts it, although he maintains it was an accident.

One wonders how Hurley might describe the ensuing police investigation into his actions. The term accident certainly couldn’t apply.

The derailing of the investigation began literally within minutes of confirmation that Mulrunji was dead. Despite the death occurring in a police station, evidence presented to the inquest revealed that the ‘crime scene’ where the injuries were inflicted - the rear entrance to the watchhouse area - was never secured.

Within an hour of Mulrunji’s death, Queensland police hierarchy were aware of the death. Townsville Regional Crime Co-ordinator Inspector Warren Webber immediately appointed two local officers - Detective Senior Sergeant Ray Kitching from the Townsville Criminal Investigation Branch, and Detective Sergeant Darren Robinson, from the Criminal Investigation Branch on Palm Island - to take charge of the investigation.

Kitching had worked closely with Hurley. He later told investigators that while he didn’t consider Hurley to be a friend, he was “well disposed” to Hurley.

Robinson’s story was even worse. He was a close friend of Hurley’s - the pair had worked together on Palm for two years.

In addition to this, it wouldn’t be the first time Robinson would investigate his mate over allegations of violence and misconduct.

During the inquest, Coroner Clements took evidence regarding past incidents involving Hurley on Palm Island. One of them related to Hurley’s attendance at a violent domestic dispute some months before the death of Mulrunji.

A woman - Barbara Pilot - approached the police vehicle that Hurley was driving. He sped off, and ran over her foot in the process.

Pilot was seriously injured, so much so that after initial treatment at the Palm Island hospital, she was transferred to Townsville.

Coroner Clements notes: “Whether or not the incident occurred as was alleged, and whether it occurred due to accident, negligence or was deliberate, remains undetermined. It most certainly required independent and full investigation. This did not happen.”

The investigating officer was Detective Sergeant Robinson.

According to the coroner, Robinson conducted a “belated”, “cursory” and “completely unsatisfactory” investigation, before dismissing the complaint as fictitious. That’s despite, in the coroner’s words, the clear existence of evidence which showed that Ms Pilot’s foot was “prima facie consistent with being run over by a car tyre”.

The coroner also noted: “The other matter of relevance to this inquest is the manner and extent to which Senior Sergeant Hurley told this inquest he satisfied himself that Barbara Pilot was uninjured.

“He opened the car door and looked her up and down as she lay on the ground, decided she was unhurt, and drove off.”

Hurley did, however, eventually return to the ‘scene of the crime’ later that night.

He began approaching potential witnesses in an attempt to determine what they had seen.

A few hours after Mulrunji’s death, Detective Kitching arrived on Palm to begin investigations. Travelling with him was Inspector Webber, who also happened to be linked to the Ethical Standards Command (ESC), a unit of senior police whose “core business” is to ensure the police service “conducts its affairs in an ethical manner”.

Hurley was waiting at the airstrip to pick them up.

He ferried the investigating officers, plus a police photographer, around the island, including to the scene of Mulrunji’s arrest.

Later than night, Hurley had them all over to his house for dinner and beers.

Hurley had already been interviewed by Detectives Robinson and Kitching. The next morning he was interviewed by Webber and Inspector Mark Williams, a second officer linked to the ESC who had travelled up from Brisbane.

The investigation had obviously already been seriously corrupted, but what transpires on November 20 - just 24 hours after the death in custody - beggars belief.

Inspector Webber and Inspector Williams also interviewed Roy Bramwell and video-taped a re-enactment. Bramwell revealed that he had seen Hurley’s elbow going up and down over the body of Mulrunji.

According to The Australian newspaper, Hurley was sitting “just metres away” in his office, within earshot of proceedings.

Hurley later explains that Bramwell misunderstood what had really occurred. Hurley was merely trying to lift Mulrunji up off the floor by his shirt, but it kept ripping, “thus causing him to perform a repetitive action which he says was misinterpreted... as punching”.

The coroner noted that in Hurley’s original interview on the day of the death with Robinson and Kitching, he made no mention of trying to lift a drunk Mulrunji from the floor as his shirt kept ripping.

That version of events was given to investigators later, after Bramwell had recorded the evidence with investigators (to which Hurley was within earshot).

The coroner also noted that after discrepancies in time emerged in the course of the investigation, Hurley had an ‘off the record’ discussion with Webber, Williams, Robinson and Kitching.

“But this was not documented as part of the investigation by those officers,” Coroner Clements noted.

“It only came to light incidentally through Senior Sergeant Hurley’s answers to the [Crime and Misconduct Commission].”

It also later emerged that Hurley had compared notes with Sergeant Leafe and Liaison Officer Bengaroo, and that Hurley had also watched the surveillance footage of Mulrunji as he lay dying in the cell.

Challenged about this later, Inspector Williams suggested that a witness reviewing evidence while a matter was under investigation could only make their evidence “better or more accurate”. It’s fair to say that Queensland’s crime community will no doubt be looking forward to the formal adoption of that loophole.

But it’s the interview by Webber and Williams - the two police brought in specificallyto ensure the highest standard of ethics - of Lloyd Bengaroo which provides the greatest insight into how Queensland Police operate.

At one point during the interview, Webber asks Bengaroo why he didn’t see what happened after Hurley and Mulrunji had crashed to the floor, even though he (Bengaroo) was standing right next to the doorway.

Bengaroo replied: “I just stood there because I was thinking, um, if I see something I might get into trouble myself or something.”

You might think that telling two Inspectors of Police from the Ethical Standards Command that you deliberately looked away while a six-foot-seven-inch cop weighing 115 kilos wrestled with a five-foot-eleven-inch Aboriginal weighing 74 kilos might elicit some sort of grilling.

Webber simply replied, “Oh, OK,” before he and Williams moved on to a new line of questioning.

It seems knowing when to ‘look the other way’ is all in a day’s work in the Queensland Police Service, although it didn’t wash with Coroner Clements.

“How these senior investigating officers could have let that response remain unexplored was as wilfully blind as Bengaroo chose to be.”

The QPS remained in charge of the investigation for six days, until the autopsy report was finally completed.

By then, it was already apparent that the investigation had been very badly compromised.

The police report sent to the pathologist, signed off by Kitching, neglected to mention that Bramwell had claimed Hurley assaulted Mulrunji just prior to his death.

Coroner Clements described this information as “crucial”.

On November 24, the Crime and Misconduct Commission took charge of the investigation. Officers were due to arrive on Palm Island on November 26. It was too little too late.

The autopsy report was publicly released on Palm Island at a tense community meeting.

Palm Island Mayor Erykah Kyle read out the verdict: Mulrunji’s death was an accident after he tripped on some stairs and fell, rupturing his liver.

The island erupted, and later that day the police station, the barracks and the courthouse were torched.

It’s impossible to know what finding the pathologist may have made had he been told that a police officer was accused of assaulting Mulrunji shortly before his death. But we do know what the medical experts have subsequently found.

“The consensus of medical opinion was that severe compressive force applied to the upper abdomen, or possibly the lower chest, or both together, was required to have caused this injury,” said the coroner.

In her summing up and findings, Coroner Clements repeatedly described Hurley as untruthful during proceedings.

“I find that Mulrunji did punch Senior Sergeant Hurley outside the police station as he tried to resist being taken into the police station.... Senior Sergeant Hurley did respond to Mulrunji’s punch by himself punching Mulrunji.... I reject Senior Sergeant Hurley’s denial as untruthful.”

And this: “Senior Sergeant Hurley... asserted that he was not put out by the fall and did not react against Mulrunji - a most unlikely response from a man who considered his lawful authority and personal position of power was being challenged, and in his own police station. Despite a steady demeanour in court, Senior Sergeant Hurley’s explanation does not persuade me he was truthful in his account of what happened.”

Coroner Clements rejected almost all of the key elements of Hurley’s testimony, with one notable exception: “I find that Senior Sergeant Hurley’s repeated clear statements that he fell to the left hand side of Mulrunji are in fact what occurred.”

Having already noted in her findings that Hurley’s lawyer had conceded that if the injury occurred after the fall it necessarily inferred a deliberate application of force by Hurley, Coroner Clements added: “I find that Senior Sergeant Hurley hit Mulrunji whilst he was on the floor a number of times in a direct response to himself having been hit in the jaw and then falling to the floor.

“After this occurred, I find there was no further resistance or indeed any speech or response from Mulrunji.

“I conclude that these actions of Senior Sergeant Hurley caused the fatal injuries.”

It’s a well-known matter of public record that following the coroner’s findings, the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions, Leanne Clare refused to charge Hurley over the death, claiming there was no reasonable prospect of a conviction.

During the ensuing media furore - which included substantial interest from overseas - Clare made a strange reference to additional evidence which she had personally gathered. Clare never disclosed what this evidence was, or where it came from.

Under intense political pressure, Premier Peter Beattie announced a review of the DPP’s decision.

In January 2007, Sir Laurence Street - a former NSW Supreme Court Chief Justice - found Hurley had a case to answer. Clare’s decision was overturned.

Hurley was charged with manslaughter and assault, and for the second time suspended from duty on full pay.

It is also well-known that in June 2007, Hurley was acquitted on both charges. Although he finally did accept that he must have caused the fatal injuries to Mulrunji, Hurley maintains it was a tragic accident.

Had Hurley been a citizen, that would probably have been the end of the matter. But as a sworn police officer, Hurley still had to face internal investigations.

In December 2006, after the DPP had announced Hurley would not be prosecuted, Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson issued a press release aimed at restoring some public confidence in the service.

“The Queensland Police Commissioner, Bob Atkinson said today that the QPS acknowledged the Director of Public Prosecutions announcement that the DPP would not be proceeding with any criminal charges against Senior Sergeant Hurley, and the Crime and Misconduct Commission advice that, “....no disciplinary action before the Misconduct Tribunal or by the Queensland Police Service can be taken against the police officer in relation to the cause of death or in relation to the charges of assault or perjury.....”.

What Atkinson does not mention was why the CMC said no disciplinary action could be taken against Hurley from matters arising out of the coronial process.

Coroner Clement’s findings perhaps provide a clue: “A direction was necessary to obtain Senior Sergeant Hurley’s evidence on the basis that the answers may incriminate him.... According to law those answers are not admissible against Senior Sergeant Hurley in any other proceedings except for the offence of perjury.”

In the same release, Atkinson notes: “The CMC media release also advises that, “...Any other disciplinary charges against Senior Sergeant Hurley arising from the Coronial Inquest are now the responsibility of the QPS.

“In that regard the QPS will now closely examine all the undetermined criticisms in the report of the Acting State Coroner levelled against Senior Sergeant Hurley and other members of the Service to determine if any disciplinary or other actions are warranted. The Service will liaise with the CMC in respect of that process.”

Almost a year and a half later - and three and a half years after the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee - the “undetermined criticisms” from the coroner against Hurley and “other members of the Service” remain, well, undetermined.

A fortnight ago, NIT contacted the Queensland Police to ask why. The QPS issued a written statement in response:

“The Queensland Police Service has not finalised its investigation into the actions of officers involved in the investigation of Mr Doomadgee’s death.

“These investigations will be finalised as soon as possible and those determinations would be overviewed by the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

“The allegations against individual police officers involved in the arrest and custody of Mr Doomadgee, including Senior Sergeant Hurley, will continue to be progressed internally.

“However, these matters may not be able to be finalised until other court proceedings are completed.

“Pursuant to section 50 of the Coroners Act 2003, Senior Sergeant Hurley has commenced legal proceedings to review some of the findings of the Inquest by the Deputy State Coroner’s (sic) into the death of (Mulrunji).

“This review is before the Townsville District Court.”

Which could equally read, ‘Queensland police will investigate the allegations of misconduct against Queensland police who were investigating allegations of misconduct against Queensland police’.

Coroner Clements wasn’t kidding when she noted in her findings, “It is regrettable that even in these proceedings some senior police officers have not been prepared to acknowledge the lack of sensitivity shown in the investigation and how it must damage public confidence.”

You need only reverse the situation to realise that in Queensland, it’s one rule for the police and another for everyone else.

Imagine if a coroners court had found Lex Wotton responsible for the death of a police officer. Imagine if the same court found several of Lex’s friends assisted him shortly after the death.

Now try and imagine the Queensland Police suspending investigations into the death because ‘Lex and friends’ say they’re innocent and are seeking a judicial review.

The notion is clearly ridiculous.

Of all the community outrage expressed over the Palm Island riot and the charging of Chris Hurley, few cried foul louder than Gary Wilkinson, president of the Queensland Police Union of Employees (QPUE).

Wilkinson publicly described Clements’ inquiry as a “witch hunt” which was “... designed to pander to the residents of Palm Island, rather than establishing the facts”.

He also alleged that Clements had ignored “mountains of evidence” which supported Hurley, but embraced evidence from “drunkard” Palm Islanders.

Wilkinson called on the Director of Public Prosecutions to “see through this rubbish” and throw the case in the bin “where it belongs”.

Not surprisingly, Wilkinson was charged with contempt of court.

In March 2007, the offence was found proved, but Wilkinson managed to escape conviction after publicly apologising to the coroner prior to his trial.

He was ordered to pay court costs, which the QPUE helped fund.

Six months later, Wilkinson was back under investigation again, this time by the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

But the alleged offences this time had nothing to do with Wilkinson’s intemperate attitude.

In August 2007, the CMC began an investigation into allegations that Wilkinson, along with several other senior union officials, obtained fraudulent valuations of vehicles owned by the QPUE, and then sold them at substantially discounted rates to family members.

The investigation remained secret until The Australian newspaper broke the story on October 20 last year.

In Wilkinson’s case, the allegation specifically related to him selling a QPUE-owned Toyota Camry to his wife for around $11,000.

The vehicle was reportedly worth $23,000.

“It is understood a licensed motor dealer at Shorncliffe, to Brisbane’s north, provided a valuation for the car sold to Mr Wilkinson’s wife.... A friend of Mr Wilkinson - who was a former employee of the Queensland Police Credit Union - contacted the Shorncliffe motor dealer on behalf of Mr Wilkinson,” The Courier-Mail later reported.

An apparently relaxed Wilkinson denied any wrongdoing, telling The Australian that he was most likely just the victim of a smear campaign.

“A number of union staff and officials have been interviewed and the union is co-operating with the investigation” he told The Australian.

“We understand the CMC’s investigation is nearly complete, and we’re confident it will reveal no wrong-doing, and will conclude with no adverse findings against the union.

“Inquiries of this type arise from time to time, given the political and legal environment in which we operate.”

But the CMC’s findings did not clear the union, or did it clear Wilkinson.

Late last year, the CMC constructed a brief against Mr Wilkinson and sent it to the Department of Public Prosecutions.

Leanne Clare - the public prosecutor who refused to charge Chris Hurley - also refused to prosecute Wilkinson.

Earlier this week, the CMC declined to outline the reasons provided by the DPP, however a CMC spokesperson emphasised: “We acted entirely on advice from the DPP and the DPP advised no prosecution should be brought.”

The DPP declined to provide NIT with an explanation for why a court will not decide Wilkinson’s fate.

Wilkinson - a long-serving, influential former police officer has escaped prosecution yet the public is not entitled to know why.

As for the Union, it has a new president, and a new process for disposing of union vehicles, but one wonders what the 9,500 members of the QPUE think of their monthly membership fees ending up in the back pockets of union officials.

Just three months after telling The Australian there were no problems, Wilkinson retired from the police service, citing a chronic back problem for his departure.

Wilkinson now lives north of Brisbane and has retired on a full police pension.

Chris Hurley is still at work on the Gold Coast, although he reportedly works in a non-operational role at regional headquarters.

His appeal against the coroner’s findings is expected to be heard later this year.

Inspector Webber, one of the officers who seemed unsurprised that Lloyd Bengaroo deliberately looked away while Hurley dealt with Mulrunji on the watchhouse floor, is still a serving police officer based in Townsville.

Inspector Williams - the co-interviewer of Bengaroo and the officer who thought that evidence might improve if witnesses got to review it - is still based in Brisbane.

At least three of 16 police sent to Palm Island immediately after the death in custody to bolster numbers in expectations of the riot are suing Queensland Police for stress-related injuries.

As for the folk on Palm Island, they’re still fighting their own demons.

Tracey Twaddle, Mulrunji’s partner for the last decade of his life, still grieves her loss.

So does Mulrunji’s community, and his family.

On November 2 last year, they commenced civil proceedings against Senior Sergeant Hurley and the Queensland government.

In total, almost 30 Aboriginal people were charged over the Palm riots. About half of them were convicted, with jail time ranging from a few weeks to almost two years.

Terrence Alfred Kidner, aged in his early 20s, thus far has received the harshest sentence - he is serving 16 months after pleading guilty to arson. At his trial in May last year, Kidner’s defence barrister, Bruce Mumford, told the court Kidner had the mental capacity of a seven-and-a-half-year-old. Mr Mumford said Kidner was apologetic when he confessed.

Lex Wotton goes to trial in October and is facing more than 13 years in jail.

In late 2006, three days before the resumption of the inquest after a short break, Mulrunji’s son, Eric, hung himself.

Three months later, Patrick Bramwell, the friend who shared a cell with Mulrunji and attempted to comfort him as he bled to death on the floor of a police cell, also took his own life.