July 17, 2007

separation of what?

rg has been experiencing confusion while following the saga of alleged terrorist dr mohamed haneef. this makes rg ponder, how much confusion or misunderstanding is the general community feeling trying to grasp the finer points of this case? no -scrap that: what about understanding the more global aspects, such as the role of the court and government?

on a high level, dr haneef has been charged with 'recklessly' supporting a terrorist organisation after he provided his sim card to someone allegedly plotting uk car bomb attacks. haneef was detained; investigations, searches and questioning ensued, and yesterday haneef was granted bail by a magistrate. this is where rg's understanding becomes muddied.

'separation of powers' is a phrase bandied around the political sphere, however it appears the actual concept and meaning of the term has been lost and, like that old chestnut 'presumption of innocence', has been downgraded to a non-core concern. it's not a complicated notion: state/government do their thing; judiciary does theirs, never the twain shall meet.

when a magistrate makes a determination in a case having considered evidence from the australian federal police's exhaustive investigations, one could be forgiven for thinking it ought apply. however if you're the immigration minister, apparently you have the luxury of overriding said legal determination.

which begs the question, what's the point of the separation of powers? is it something that only applies when convenient, or is it something that can be brushed aside when the government strongly believes the judiciary simply got it wrong? and how can that be, given both the government and the court have been privy to the same evidence?

rg has no doubt dr haneef did have associations with alleged bomb plotters in the uk - he was, after all, a relative. but what if this is a big mess of circumstance and coincidence? how on earth, given kevin andrews' cancellation of haneef's visa on character grounds, can this man be afforded a presumption of innocence (should he not be deported and be free to stand trial) when the australian government has made it utterly clear he is undesirable to this country? rg is waiting for john howard to rehash his eloquent 'we will decide who comes to this country' caterwauling. if the pm has swapped his praying for rain with a prayer for another national security platform to launch his election campaign, a cynic could be forgiven for thinking his prayers have been answered by the patron saint of dumb luck.

so now haneef and his lawyers have a decision to make: if he's bailed, it's off to villawood detention centre; if he's not, he stays within the queensland remand system. what a non-choice. as succinctly put in the sydney morning herald, 'the visa cancellation is a mechanism that [will] ensure that Haneef, whether guilty or not guilty of the terrorism charges, never tastes freedom again in Australia.' what a terribly australian way to treat someone so obviously unaustralian.

No comments: