PEACE CONVERGENCE – MEDIA RELEASE – 20 JUNE 2007

GUAM AND HAWAII BRING WARNING ABOUT MILITARY EXERCISES

Three international guests arrived in Yeppoon – Rockhampton on Wednesday
to add their voices to the protest of over 500 Australians concerned about
the Australian-US Talisman Sabre 2007 military exercises at Shoalwater Bay
Training Area near Yeppoon, central Queensland.

Coming from Guam and Hawaii, the three women carry warnings about the
social, political, Indigenous rights, health and environmental price paid
by small communities when their homelands become militarised.

A Welcome Ceremony was held at the Rockhampton Airport by the Fitzroy
Basin Elders. They were also welcomed by the Peace Convergence which is
protesting the military exercises. The Guam and Hawaiian visitors
responded with chanting and the giving of gifts.

The guest from Guam is Fanai Castro from the Organisation of Peoples for
Indigenous Rights. OPIR campaigns for the Indigenous right to an act of
self-determination and opposes the expansion of US militarisation of their
small island.

From Hawaii, Terri Keko’olani and Leimaile Quitevis represent the
Demilitarize Zone Hawaii Aloha ‘Aina, a pan-Hawai’ian movement for
demilitarisation and Indigenous rights.

All three women are Indigenous rights activists in their respective
countries and identify militarisation as one of the manifestations of
ongoing colonialism.

“Our guests have firsthand experience of the impact of militarisation on
people’s lives. They bring a timely warning about the real price paid by
local people when their home communities become militarised,” Dr Zohl de
Ishtar from the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies,
University of Queensland. Dr de Ishtar is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

“It is an honour to receive such a welcoming from the Indigenous elders,
since it is with us Indigenous peoples that the atrocities of colonialism
first made its mark. In these days it seems that militarisation is the new
colonialism,” said Fanai Castro a Chamoru (Indigenous) social justice
activist from Guam.

“Shoalwater Bay Training Area is the only facility in the north-western
Pacific which provides such extensive air-land-sea live-fire training
capacity to the US military. Many of the planes, ships and submarines
participating in the exercises come are homebased in or transit through
Guam. Hawaii is the headquarters of the Pacific Command under whose
jurisdiction the Talisman Sabre exercises fall,” said Dr Zohl de Ishtar.


For Immediate Release
Contact:
Dr Zohl de Ishtar, Phone: 0429 422 645
Australia Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Queensland

—————————————-

Why the Peace Convergence

Serious public concern has resulted in a “National Peace Convergence” in
Central Queensland during TS07 from 18 to 24 June 2007. National and
international support is strong. Increasing numbers or scientists,
environmentalist, sociologists, business leaders and politicians are
realising what Australia will lose sponsoring the USA military’s ambitions
in our region.

Peace Convergence participants come from a broad cross-section of our
Australian society – cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs, life
experiences, livelihoods and professions are just some of the differences
– but our concern about the Talisman Sabre exercise (its costs and
potential risks) has brought us together. Some of those issues are:

-the potential health risks of possible contamination from live-fire
training to local residents, Indigenous peoples, Australian and US
soldiers, and the wider public;

-the risk to the environment, specifically the threat to endangered
species and wilderness;

-the social impacts (actual and potential) of militarism both locally and
nationally.

-mounting militarism within Australia and Australia’s role in the
increasing militarisation of our Pacific region and world.

*

The Shoalwater Issues

Shoalwater Bay (SWB), 70 km north of Rockhampton, is a biologically
diverse and beautiful coastal treasure of 400,000 hectors, including
beaches, harbours and coral islands. It is a pristine nature, as a result
of geographic isolation and, in the past, only limited defence use. SWB is
difficult to access and virtually unvisited by the local population who
until recently believed the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) provided the
best care taking option. Fishermen, yachtsmen, ADF and National Park staff
recognise the significance of this unique region.

Public sentiment changed when, in 2005, the Australia Government entered
agreements with the USA providing long-term access and joint use of
Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA).

This agreement ties Australia to the rapid military build in the Pacific,
particularly in Guam, a US territory to our north. The “Talisman Saber
“2007 (TS07) exercise is a result as part of the Australian – USA Joint
Combined Training Centre. SWB is one of the US Pentagon’s largest and most
important training and bombing ranges in the Asia-Pacific region. There
has not been disclosure of these agreements or weaponry to be used in
Australia.

Research by the Shoalwater Wilderness Awareness Group (SWAG), into the
history of USA military training and bases in foreign countries reveals an
appalling environmental, economic, social and health legacy.
The TS07 War Games are the largest joint Australia-USA exercises conducted
in Australia, and vital to the USA’s regional dominance through the
Pacific Command in Hawaii, linked to bases in Alaska. Guam the major
forward base lacks the landmass for combined air, sea and land training.
SWB is USA’s principal joint training area with Guam’s airspace for
training extending south to SWB in Australia.

Environmental legislation has been altered, removing the usual need for an
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) for any activity the ADF deem
unnecessary. The EIS is replaced by Public Environmental Reports (PER),
commissioned, financed, reviewed and released by the military. The public
input and consultation process is controlled by the military.

Steve Bishopric
Shoalwater Wilderness Awareness Group

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