Thursday, January 16, 2014

Kangaroo in 400-year-old manuscript could change Australian history

A drawing of a kangaroo on a 16th century Portuguese manuscript could potentially change the world's understanding of Australia's history.

The manuscript, which is thought to date from between 1580 and 1620, appears to show a small kangaroo within the letters of its text. If the image actually is a kangaroo, the drawing suggests that Portuguese explorers may have discovered Australia before the first recorded European landing on the continent by Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon in 1606.

The document, which contains text or music for a liturgical procession, was recently acquired by the Les Enluminures Galley in New York, which has valued the item at $15,000 (£9,174). It was previously in the possession of a rare book dealer in Portugal.

Laura Light, a researcher at the gallery, told Australia's The Age newspaper that "a kangaroo or wallaby in a manuscript this early is proof that the artist of this manuscript had either been in Australia, or even more interestingly, that travellers' reports and drawings of the interesting animals found in this new world were already available in Portugal."

The text also includes the image of two half-naked men wearing crowns of leaves, which researchers believe may represent Australian aborigines.

Others, however, are not so convinced.

Dr Martin Woods of the National Library of Australia told The Age that "it could be another animal in south-east Asia, like any number of deer species, some of which stand up on their hind legs to feed of high branches".

Other researchers speculate that the manuscript may have come from slightly after Janszoon's arrival in Australia, or may date from a 1526 Portuguese voyage to Papua.

The gallery plans to display the document as part of an exhibition.


Australia turns back asylum seeker boat from Indonesia

Australia has turned back another boat which Indonesian authorities believe was unseaworthy, leaving local villagers to rescue stranded asylum seekers from the ocean.

Indonesian authorities have quoted the asylum seekers on board saying Australian navy personnel fired shots as part of the operation to turn around the boat carrying 25 people.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday morning denied gunshots have been fired by the navy while intercepting asylum seeker boats.

News of the incident came as the Indonesian government warned Australia that it was approaching a 'slippery slope' with its boats policy, specifically its recent purchase of large hard-hulled lifeboats to reportedly carry asylum seekers back to Indonesia.

This is the third confirmed tow-back of an asylum seeker vessel by the Australian authorities since December 13, despite the objections of Indonesian authorities. The other two boats were returned to Rote Island in far-eastern Indonesia.

A local police commissioner from southern Java, who did not want his name or his district published, has told Fairfax Media that villagers plucked a number of asylum seekers from the water a week ago, on January 8, after their boat was turned back by Australia.

The officer, quoting one of those on board, Snilul, 25, from Bangladesh, said the navy had "shot into the air just to scare them".

"The boat hadn't reached Australia - they were still at sea but they said they could already see Christmas Island," the officer said.

"But they said the Australian navy then drove them away and escorted them until they entered Indonesian waters again."

The boat had been carrying 25 people from Bangladesh and Myanmar and two Indonesian crew.

"There were four children, the youngest was one-and-a-half years; there were men and women. Nobody died in the sea," the police officer said.

The asylum seekers told him they had started off from Medan in North Sumatra and had been on the water for 10 days.

After the Australian ship returned them to Indonesian waters, they made their way to the southern coast of Java.

"Midday last Wednesday [January 8] people here in the village saw them swimming in the sea, so people helped them and told us [police] later on."

Asked if he believed the boat was seaworthy for 25 people, the officer said it had only been built for about 10 people.

Fairfax Media has confirmed with other local officials that the asylum seekers were taken to a hotel in the town of Rangkasbitung. A staff member there said the migrants had now left her hotel, but she did not know where they had gone.

Indonesia warns Australia of 'slippery slope'

The reports come as Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa sent a subtle warning to Mr Morrison following the Australian government's admission that it had bought lifeboats to carry asylum seekers in "on water" operations.

"Where will this lead to?" Dr Natalegawa told the ABC.

"Developments of the type that has been reported in the media, namely the facilitation by way of boats, this is the kind of slippery slope that we have identified in the past."

The Indonesian government strongly objects to the Abbott government's policy of using the navy to "turn back" asylum seekers boats. Dr Natalegawa suggested in his ABC interview that if Australia is helping asylum seekers return to Indonesia, that could be worse than simply turning boats around.

"It's one thing to turn back the actual boats on which they have been travelling," he said. "But [it's] another issue when they are transferred onto another boat and facilitated and told to go in that direction."

Dr Natalegawa did not say what actions Indonesia would take, but suggested the focus on asylum seekers was straining the Indonesian-Australian relationship.

"To be zeroing in on issues that, in a manner that tends to divide, is not helpful," he said

'Missing' boat may have returned to Indonesia

Meanwhile, asylum seeker sources in Cisarua, West Java, said they believed a boat carrying 54 people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Iraq had gone missing after setting off from the town on January 5 or in the early hours of January 6. But reports late on Wednesday night suggested the boat may have returned to Indonesia.

"There has been no news, no phone calls or contact by internet, no calls to their homes," the source said earlier in the day.

The smuggler was insisting that the boat had reached Christmas Island and that he had received a call from the Indonesian captain. He was demanding payment of money held in trust.

In his most recent press conference, Australian Operation Sovereign Borders chief Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell said no boats had reached Australia in the past three weeks.


Fatty O'Barrell doesn't know what side he is on

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell sent a condolence letter to the supporters of an "extremist" sheik known to security agencies in August 2012 after the cleric was killed alongside rebel fighters in Syria.

The letter mourned the death of 30-year-old Sunni sheik Mustapha al-Majzoub, whose public lectures vilified Syria's minority Alawite sect as "enemies against Islam" and urged people to join "the highest level of jihad" against them.

Majzoub -- whose moderate brother, Fedaa, campaigned for the NSW Liberals in 2011 -- claimed "the Jews" were "criminals", that natural disasters were Allah's "punishments" and compared magic tricks to "urinating on a copy of the Koran".

A week after Majzoub's death on August 27, 2012, Sydney newspaper An-Nahar published an Arabic statement from Mr O'Farrell mourning the death of the "respected cleric".

That was five days after The Australian quoted intelligence sources that said Majzoub was "known to law enforcement and the intelligence community for extremist views" and links to other persons of interest.

Mr O'Farrell was quoted as saying Majzoub's "death gives us a sad lesson that conflicts abroad, even if they were far away, can touch the lives of community members, and therefore we feel today how lucky we are to be living in the harmonious, pluralistic and diverse Australian society".

Majzoub's public lectures, shared via YouTube, depict a staunch recruiter for the Syrian rebellion who claimed that Alawite Muslims were "enemies against Islam" who "don't worship Allah" and "had a hand with every disbeliever who attacked our lands" including the 13th-century Mongols and 20th-century French. "What they are doing is beyond imagination," he said, adding "the Jews . . . are criminals too".


Time to scrap Lord's Prayer in Parliament: Greens

The Lord's Prayer in Federal Parliament is an anachronism, according to Greens senator Richard di Natale, who is calling to have the prayer scrapped.

The acting Greens leader announced on Tuesday that when Parliament returns in February, he will move to end the reading of prayers at the start of each sitting day.

He will ask the Senate's Procedure Committee to amend the standing orders and look to his Greens colleague Adam Bandt to do the same in the Lower House.

"We have a very clear separation between church and state in this country and the fact that we say the Lord's Prayer in the Australian Parliament, it is an anachronism," he told reporters in Canberra.

Senator di Natale said that "modern" Australia was made up of people who had different ideas about religion.

"We are here to represent everybody. We're here to represent people of all faiths. People who don't have a strong religious faith," he said.

Senator di Natale, who describes himself lapsed Catholic, says he had had an issue with prayers in Parliament since his first day as a senator in 2011. "It was quite jarring," he said.

But he has been prompted to comment this week after government curriculum reviewer Kevin Donnelly argued that schools were too secular.

"When you look at parliaments around Australia - they all begin with the Lord's Prayer. If you look at our constitution, the preamble is about God," Dr Donnelly said on Saturday.

Senator di Natale has not yet talked to Labor and Liberal MPs about his proposition but said he was looking forward to discussing the issue with his colleagues.

"[When the prayers are read] there are a lot of people who are silent or who are thinking of other things," he told Fairfax Media.

Federal Parliament has been reciting prayers at the start of each sitting day since 1901. Today, this includes a preamble and then the Lord's Prayer. Since 2010, sittings have also begun with an acknowledgement of country.

This is not the first time the issue of parliamentary praying has been raised. In 1997 former Greens leader Bob Brown unsuccessfully tried to remove the preamble and Lord's Prayer.

In 2008, former speaker Harry Jenkins led a similarly failed bid.

The Greens' idea did not gain support from practising Christian MPs on Tuesday.

Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss said the government had "no plans to change the standing orders".

Government Senate leader Eric Abetz said he strongly supported keeping the Lord's Prayer, arguing it was "a very rich part of our cultural tradition [and] a humble acknowledgement by the Parliament collectively of its responsibilities".

"The latest Green attack is part of their ongoing attempt to rewrite our history and deny our heritage," he said.

"Our nation's freedoms and wealth have been built on our religious underpinnings making us the envy of the world. The Greens’ refusal to acknowledge their country's own heritage and rich traditions and beliefs is as sad as it is divisive."

A spokeswoman for Labor's Senate leader, Penny Wong, indicated her party did not appreciate the lack of consultation on the issue so far.  "We don't intend to negotiate with other senators through the media," the spokeswoman said.

Labor frontbencher Mark Dreyfus, who is Jewish, pointed to the US model where the House and Senate's opening prayers can be lead by guest chaplains of many faiths.

"Many Australians have religious beliefs. Rather than abolishing the Lord's Prayer we should consider adopting the practice of the US Congress," he said.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Mr Dreyfus would kindly ask the Knesset to open with a prostration to Mecca.

Thought not.

That makes as much sense as Parliament opening with a Rabbi reminding us that Jewish magicians killed Jesus, who is boiling in semen and excrement (isn't the Talmud so nice!)