I sent the following letter to the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP)(Australian) Bulletin, and they published it in September 2009. I am still outraged by the murder of Mr Ward in Western Australia in 2008 by boiling him in the back of a police van and the murder of Steve Biko in South Africa in 1977 (he had already been virtually bashed to death) in the back of a police van, naked and practically freezing to death.
The only difference between boiling to death in the back of a police van and freezing to death in the back of a police van is that the second one occurred in apartheid South Africa in 1977 and the first one 30 years later in 2008 happened because indigenous people in Australia continue to be treated as non-people at a time when human rights are a major issue in so many countries around the world..
Not only should it never have been allowed to happen in 2008, but the criminality of refusing to lay charges only makes the offence so much worse. Australia's ongoing disgraceful treatment of its minority indigenous communities is a stain on all governments in this country and one wonders when there will be politicians elected to the country's local, state and federal governments who will manage to stop the horrors of abject poverty, child deaths, malnutrition, lack of education, poor health, lack of employment opportunities - the list is endless!
Steve Biko was murdered by the South African government by being first bashed to near death on 6 September 1977, then transported naked in the back of a police van from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria, a distance of 1200km. He died 6 days later.
He had been taken on 6 September 1977 by South African Security Police to the 6th floor of a building in Port Elizabeth (a large southern port city) hand-cuffed, then put into leg -irons, chained to a grille and subjected to 22 hours of interrogation, torture and beating. He received between 2 and 4 blows to the head, fatally damaging his brain. He died on 12 September 1977.
South Africa in 1977, and now still in Australia in 2009, to quote from the report you (FSP) sent:
* The West Australian coroner will ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider laying charges over the death of a man who effectively baked to death in the back of a prison van.
* The Aboriginal elder known as Mr Ward was being driven in the van through searing temperatures of the Goldfields last January.
* The air conditioning unit wasn't working and the temperature inside the van reached more than 50 degrees.
* The 46-year-old man suffered third degree burns when his body came into contact with the hot metal floor of the van.
* The coroner said the Corrective Services Department, the contracting company GSL, and the two officers who drove the man were all responsible for his death.
* The company, now called G4S, has told Saturday AM that the two guards have now been suspended and could be sacked.
* But the family wants to see charges laid.
It would seem that the savagery of the South African government continues in Australia, courtesy of the Rudd and state and territory governments, and that deaths in custody, far from diminishing since the Royal Commission continue in an upward spiral which will not be stopped until there is such a huge national and international outcry that the governments in this country will be forced to take notice.
Unfortunately no country with indigenous people subjected to the control of the ruling classes have their hands clean, and it is difficult to ascertain which countries are worse than each other.
The stain of Steve Biko's execution will long live on in the memory of those of us South Africans who were aware of what the apartheid government was doing but felt powerless to do anything about it. Living in a police state was a very intimidating place to be a political activist, and I fled to Australia in 1978 with my family, escaping from the worst excesses of the police state which were still to come in the aftermath of the 1976 Soweto riots.
To know that we live in a country where the excesses of our governments continue in the face of Royal Commissions and their recommendations is to be aware that we await our revolution but know it will still be a while arriving while capitalism goes from crisis to crisis taking us all along for the ride.
I personally feel horror when I think of the case which is now before the public gaze, and remember Steve Biko. How can one ever forget??
Mannie De Saxe
Prosecutor angers Aborigines by ruling out charges in prison van death during Outback journey
The Associated Press Jun 28, 2010
PERTH, Australia - A state prosecutor on Monday ruled out criminal charges in the death of an indigenous elder in a prison van with no air conditioning on a scorching summer day in Australia's Outback — a decision that angered Aborigines.
Western Australia Director of Public Prosecutions Joe McGrath said there was no reasonable prospect of a jury convicting the two prison guards who transported the 46-year-old prisoner on the fatal four-hour journey in 2008.
"I'm acutely aware that the death was tragic, avoidable and rightly creates outrage in the wider Australian community," McGrath told reporters.
The prisoner, now known only by his family name Ward because of a cultural prohibition on using the given name of a dead Aborigine, died of heat stroke in the back of the van where the temperature soared to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius).
The two prison officers, who were in a separate front compartment of the van, did not check on Ward and were unaware that the air conditioner in the rear compartment was broken.
Ward suffered a third-degree burn to his stomach after collapsing on the van's metal floor.
A state coroner who investigated the tragedy last year found that the two guards had contributed to the "terrible death" and recommended that prosecutors consider bringing criminal charges.
Aboriginal elder Ben Taylor criticized McGrath's refusal to lay charges and warned that protests would continue until Ward received justice.
"They are killing our people off," Taylor said. "The poor man was cooked alive."
Aboriginal lawyer Dennis Eggington blamed the outcome on a flawed police investigation that deserved further scrutiny.
Aborigines are an impoverished minority of 500,000 in Australia's 22 million population who are imprisoned far more frequently than other Australians.
Ward was being taken from his desert home town of Laverton to the larger Outback centre of Kalgoorlie to face court on a drunk driving charge when he died.
The state government responded to the tragedy with plans to roll out a new fleet of 40 prison vans.
Outrage at van death ruling
Article in The Age
June 29, 2010
A DECISION not to charge two security guards over the heat-stroke death of a West Australian Aboriginal elder in a prison van has been greeted with anger and disbelief.
Mr Ward, an elder whose full name cannot be used for cultural reasons, died of heat stroke in the back of the van on a four-hour trip from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia's Goldfields region in January 2008.
WA Director of Public Prosecutions Joe McGrath visited Mr Ward's widow Nancy at Warburton in the Central Desert at the weekend to tell her charges would not be laid.
He told her there was no reasonable prospect of conviction against the two security guards employed by the security firm GSL, now known as G4S.
Mr Ward's family were said to be distraught over the decision.
A broken air conditioner in the back of the van meant Mr Ward endured temperatures of more than 50 degrees during the non-stop journey.
He was being driven to Kalgoorlie to face a drink-driving charge.
Last year, WA Coroner Alastair Hope found the Department of Corrective Services and security officers Graham Powell and Nina Stokoe and their employer, had all contributed to Mr Ward's death.
Mr Hope referred the case to the DPP because he believed a criminal offence had been committed, he said.
Mr McGrath defended his decision not to prosecute yesterday, saying a thorough investigation had found nobody criminally negligent. He said Sydney lawyer John Agius had endorsed his decision.
The WA Deaths in Custody Watch Committee is seeking an independent review of the case.
WA shadow attorney-general John Quigley said it was inconceivable no one would face charges.
The WA government is finalising an ex-gratia payment to Mr Ward's family.