At a time of year when many of us like to rejoice in the company of close friends and family while celebrating the good things in life my thoughts were with my friends Russell Pridgeon and Patrick O’Dea for whom this festive season is yet again experienced under a dark cloud with the possibility they may yet be incarcerated.
In April it will be nine years since these two good men went to the aid of a Queensland mother in distress who had fled in desperation from her home with her twin daughters, who she insisted were being sexually abused. Never in their wildest dreams did they realise that this selfless act of kindness was soon to bring forth the wrath of the fearsome monster that is the Australian government and its organs of state.
What has followed, almost incomprehensibly, is possibly the most extensive police investigation in the country’s history and the lives of these two men have been utterly destroyed. They have been jailed and bailed under onerous conditions, defamed by the media, harassed, bullied and impoverished and still there is no end to this nightmare. While most of the initial charges have been dropped because they were outrageous fabrications, lesser ones, although clearly flawed in terms of jurisdiction and procedure, remain in place.
In the years following their arrest they have reached out to hundreds, if not thousands of public officials and politicians from the highest to the lowest offices in the land, in a despairing search for someone brave enough to come forward and acknowledge the massive injustice that has been visited upon them but not so much as a whisper. If this country has a soul, it appears to be a dark one.
Having lived in Africa all my life, with a university training in law, I look at what is happening in Australia and the West with growing concern and a certain amount of irony. I grew up in Rhodesia which I look back on as a model state in the way in which the law of the land was applied. The Attorney General was not politically appointed, and the separation of powers was clearly defined between the executive and the judiciary. The system employed excellent law enforcement officers, and highly trained magistrates and judges who were men and women beyond reproach. Alas no more; in that country, along with the rest of Africa the law has become a political weapon available to those in power as a means to protect and buttress their positions which is why involvement in opposition politics is a dangerous endeavour.
Until recently I used to think this was a uniquely African scenario, but now I see we are far from alone here when it comes to subverting the law for political ends. What Russell and Patrick have done by refusing to buckle under state-sanctioned pressure, is reveal a fundamental rottenness that has permeated many, if not all of the structures of state and a decision has clearly been made at a high level to punish these men for their insolence. This has all the hallmarks of a Police State in action.
In neighbouring New Zealand it appears political dissent is similarly intolerable. In a recent statement Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made it quite clear to the citizenry that fascism, hiding behind a liberal façade, is the new order. In recent statement she explains: “We (the government) will continue to be your single source of truth. Unless you hear it from us it is not the truth.” This is the sort of message we have come to associate with a lunatic like Kim Jung-an in North Korea and it appears to have been received by a majority of New Zealanders with astounding equanimity.
In the United Kingdom it was recently revealed that the chances of a citizen being arrested for utterances on social media was far greater than in Putin’s Russia. In Russia, with a population far larger than Britain’s, last year, 400 people were arrested, while in the UK the number was 3,300. This against a backdrop of dangerous military intervention in a war in Ukraine because Putin is accused of being a threat to democracy.
In the United States it is now perfectly obvious to all that being a Republican (and worse being a Trump supporter) comes with the risk of drawing the attention of the State in some form, whether it be the Internal Revenue Service or the FBI and the Department of Justice; and this can have devastating consequences as has been shown in the indictment and prosecution of a growing number of people who are labelled ‘alt-right’ or ‘patriotic’. However if you are a Democrat, son of a sitting president, and there is copious evidence suggesting your criminal conduct you are apparently immune from investigation, let alone prosecution and imprisonment. In fact the perversion of justice in America goes further. It is now revealed, thanks to Elon Musk and the ‘Twitter Files’, that the FBI misused public money to bribe Twitter censors to suppress information appearing on the platform that incriminated Hunter Biden. So here was the country’s foremost investigative agency actually using taxpayer money to stop a criminal prosecution.
While I and many others hope and pray that justice and fairness will prevail and the distress for Russell and Patrick will soon be over, it appears bad is supplanting good in Australia and many corners of the world we used to think were ‘free’, and a dim tunnel is growing darker.
‘All is needed for evil to prevail is that good men do nothing’ they say; in Australia it appears, there is a woeful shortage of ‘good men’.