Fijian students design superheroes to challenge ‘Silence’ in comic contest

Students at Holy Trinity Primary School in Suva, Fiji, presented their superheroes designed during a workshop held on Monday. Image: UNICEF

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Advocacy groups have called on children and young people to defeat the “ultimate supervillain” – silence – to help end violence in and around schools.

The Holy Trinity Primary School students’ superheroes will be entered in this global competition organised by UNICEF and Comics Uniting Nations.

During the workshop at Holy Trinity Primary School, UNICEF Pacific ambassador Pita Taufatofua said: “Every child in Fiji, in the Pacific islands and throughout the world, has the right to go to school and feel safe.

“Superhero” Love Walker. Image: UNICEF

“Let’s talk about the kind of superpowers that your superhero might have that will help every child feel safe in school.”

The students also had the chance to work with Tui Ledua, from Kanalevu Animation and Illustration.

“How will we create a superhero to prevent bullying?” Ledua told the students.


He responded to the students’ ideas on the characteristics his superhero should have and brought this character to life right in front of their eyes, a superhero complete with a sasa broom to be used as a magic wand to create a peaceful world.

Silencing children
Silence is a supernatural character that uses its powers to stop children from speaking up and taking action against violence in and around schools.

Children and young people aged 25 years and under have been invited to design their own comic superhero that will defeat Silence and help keep children safe in school.

UNICEF Pacific representative Sheldon Yett said: “From fighting and bullying to sexual harassment and corporal punishment, violence in and around schools can have devastating, long-term consequences for children.”

The Silence superhero comic contest will encourage children and young people in
Fiji and around the world to be part of UNICEF’s global campaign to shed light on and spark action to #ENDviolence in schools through the creative medium of comic design.

The top submissions in the contest will be chosen after the closing date on October 25 by a special panel of judges, including comic artist Gabriel Picolo and last year’s comic contest winner Sathviga “Sona” Sridhar.

The public will then have the opportunity to vote online for their favourite comic hero between November 16 and 25.

The winner will be announced in December and will work with a professional team to turn their winning idea into a full-length comic book. Their comic will be presented to World Leaders at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations in July 2019, as well as distributed to schools and children worldwide.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Norwegian human rights activists call for action over Israeli ‘capture’ of ship

Norwegian citizen Jan Petter Hammervold, 74, makes a ship-recorded plea before being seized by Israeli forces. He was ship’s cook on board Al Awda (The Return), is a board member of Ship to Gaza Norway and author of the book Fiskerne I Gaza (Gaza Fishers), about the 2018 Freedom Flotilla. New Zealander Mike Treen was also on board and detained. Video: Gaza Freedom Flotilla Coalition

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Norway has asked Israel to “explain” its unlawful capture of the Norwegian-flagged ship Al Awda that last month tried to breach the Gaza Strip’s 10-year maritime blockade.

The international Freedom Flotilla was in a bid to deliver medical supplies to Palestinians in the coastal enclave.

“We have asked the Israeli authorities to clarify the circumstances around the seizure of the vessel and the legal basis for the intervention,” said a Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman.

READ MORE: Israel’s attack on the Gaza Flotilla – looking back a year later 

“While this is certainly far more than the New Zealand government’s response (which appears to be nothing at all, since Kiwi Mike Treen was bashed and arrested in the same attack), the Freedom Flotilla’s Norwegian campaign is demanding their government takes a stand,” said the NZ humanitarian group Kia Ora Gaza.

The Freedom Flotilla boat Al Awda, hijacked by Israeli forces while carrying humanitarian and medical supplies to the besieged enclave of Gaza Strip. Image: Freedom Flotilla Coalition


The full statement from the Ship to Gaza Norway human rights group yesterday said:

When will Norway protest against hijacking and extensive violence against people on board?

On July 29, the Norwegian former fishing vessel Kårstein [renamed Al Awda] was hijacked in international waters, with extensive violence by Israeli navy soldiers.

“For more than a week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ follow-up of the case has limited itself to asking Israeli authorities to ‘clarify the course of events’ and say why they ‘encroached on the vessel’.

“No indication of protest.

“Now Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide has continued this game. After talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu she said that ‘we asked the Israeli authorities for an explanation of why the ship was captured, the course of events and the use of power’.

“Still no indication of protest.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ gathering of facts in the case limits itself to the embassy personnel’s talks with five Norwegian citizens in Israeli prison the day after the hijacking. After they were deported and able to speak freely, they have not been contacted by the MFA.

“There were people from 16 nations on board. Their version has not been obtained. The ship’s highly recognised doctor, who delivered a shocking report on Saturday, has not been contacted.

No legal basis for hijacking, violence
“However, in the talks with the five Norwegian citizens in prison, there were revealed more than enough [grounds] to justify a strong protest. The MFA knows that our action was non-violence based and that the ship had a load of desperately needed medical equipment.

“Independent of possible differences in view on international law, there is of course no legal basis for hijacking a ship in international waters by knocking out peaceful, non-violent people and using heavy violence against them.

“Nor is there any legal basis for stealing everything of valuables and clothing. From Mikkel Grüner, a member of Bergen City Council, the soldiers stole everything except for the ship’s Norwegian flag, which they had trampled on.

“The Foreign Minister obviously does not know that the soldiers have taken all the belongings of the people on board.

Lies and nonsense
Israel has always lied about how they use military power. Every time they say that the operation has been done without violence, but we have documented through video footage that it is a lie.

“This time, violence was worse than ever [since the Israeli commando attack that killed 10 civilians on the Mavi Marmara-led flotilla in 2010] and Israel’s ambassador continues with the same nonsense.

“What Israel does in this case is of course just a pale shadow of what they do to the Palestinians, including daily attacks on the fishermen in Gaza. A pleasant chat with those responsible for violence, terror and mass murder will lead to nothing except for the game to continue.

“Since governments do nothing that may stop this, people with conscience and knowledge must do something. That is why we sailed to Gaza.

“The result is international effects that show that it is ordinary people’s action, pressure and protest that can eventually produce results.”

Asia Pacific Report has a content sharing arrangement with Kia Ora Gaza.

The “captive” ship Al Awda in the southern Israeli port of Ashdod. Image: Times of Israel

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Murray Horton: Independent foreign policy? Fine words, but not reality

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Murray Horton: Independent foreign policy? Fine words, but not reality

OPINION: By Murray Horton

The Aotearoa Independence Movement (AIM) congratulates Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for explicitly defying President Trump’s bullying in relation to New Zealand’s United Nations vote against the US declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. She went on to say that “New Zealand has, and always has had, an independent foreign policy“.

Fine words. If only they bore some semblance of reality. The fact is that New Zealand is the most loyal, albeit junior, satellite of the US Empire.

AIM assumes that Jacinda is referring to things like the nuclear free policy. Yes, that is commendable – but never let it be forgotten that if the 1980s’ Labour government that implemented it had had its way, NZ would have been both nuclear free and still in the ANZUS military alliance with the US.

New Zealand did not leave ANZUS, it was kicked out by the US.

New Zealand’s most important contribution to the US Empire is as a decades-long member of the Five Eyes spy alliance and hosting the Waihopai spy base, which is operated by the NZ Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) on behalf of the the US National Security Agency (NSA)

Within the past few weeks Andrew Little, the Minister Responsible for the GCSB, has stated in writing that this government has no intention of closing Waihopai.


AIM is happy to give the Prime Minister some suggestions that would make her statement actually be true.

What would a non-aligned foreign policy look like?

It’s time for this country to pull the plug, to finish the business started in the 1980s which saw NZ both nuclear free and out of ANZUS; and to break the chains – military, intelligence, economic and cultural – that continue to bind us to the American Empire.

The Americans are very proud of having won their independence from the British Empire; it’s time for us to do the same from the American Empire. Let’s deal with the world on our terms, not on those dictated from whichever empire we happen to be a junior member of at the time.

AIM thinks that gaining true independence from the American Empire, and becoming non-aligned, is an idea whose time has well and truly come. It is not “anti-American” (or “racist” or “xenophobic”, for that matter). We stand with the American people who are fighting back in their millions against the daily outrages being perpetrated by Trump and his reactionary billionaire cronies.

We stand with them as we have stood with them in common causes ranging from the war in Vietnam to the invasion of Iraq and the campaign to impose the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) on our peoples.

It doesn’t mean isolationism. It would mean that New Zealand would pick our allies and, if necessary, our wars, on a case by case basis, decided first and foremost by what is in the interests of the New Zealand people, not the interests of foreign governments and/or corporations.

It would involve cutting the strings that continue to bind us to the American Empire. Specifically:

  • get out of the Five Eyes spy alliance (with the US, UK, Canada and Australia), and pull the plug on the ANZUS-in-all-but-name military and intelligence alliance with Trump’s increasingly dangerous and unhinged US. Renounce the recent Wellington and Washington Declarations with the US. Get out of the American wars that we are already in, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan and definitely stay out of any new wars that Trump may try to drag us into, such as in Korea.
  • the NZ Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) spy bases at Waihopai and Tangimoana (which are US National Security Agency bases in all but name) must be closed;
  • the GCSB, which is simply a junior subcontractor for the NSA, must be abolished. Cyber-security (the excuse offered for its existence) can be provided by a dedicated non-spy Government agency.
  • the US military transport base at Christchurch Airport, which has been there for more than 60 years, must be demilitarised, to end it providing cover for US military and intelligence activities that have nothing to do with providing logistic support for peaceful scientific research in Antarctica.

Cutting the Empire ties
AIM believes that not only should the national dialogue be about cutting the ties with the American Empire but also about cutting all vestigial ties with our original Empire, namely dear old Mother England.

Get shot of Mother England and Uncle Sam. It’s called leaving home and living your own life and it’s what all of us do in the much vaunted “real world” that we keep getting told about. It’s called being independent.

But we do not advocate NZ transferring its allegiance to become a loyal servant of the arising Chinese Empire. Why jump from the frying pan into the fire? Let’s stay independent of anyone’s empire.

Neutrality should be on the agenda of that dialogue. Armed neutrality is a well-established practice globally. Does anybody think counties like Switzerland, Sweden or Austria are disadvantaged, poor, or isolated as a result of their long entrenched national policy of armed neutrality?

The NZ peace movement put in a lot of work promoting positive neutrality in the 1980s as part of the successful campaign that made NZ nuclear free and out of ANZUS.

A non-aligned Aotearoa would be the opposite of “isolationist”. It would pursue an activist foreign policy. There is plenty of unfinished business.

Spreading the Kiwi disease
Let’s spread “the Kiwi disease” and actively work for a nuclear free world, one country or region at a time, if necessary.

Let’s demand that all the nuclear powers, overt or covert, disarm and dismantle their weapons of mass terror and genocide. Let’s speak truth to power and tell countries such as Australia and the US what we find abhorrent in areas such as their human rights and race relations practices. Because that’s what’s friends do.

There have been some encouraging signs of this with the Ardern government politely offering to help Australia solve its self-imposed mess vis a vis the refugees cruelly imprisoned and then abandoned on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. But the Aussies said “mind your own business, little brother”.

New Zealand’s response should be: “This is our own business. Human rights abuses are everyone’s business”.

Regionally, Aotearoa needs to be much more activist.

Take in more refugees
As a First World capitalist economy we are part of the climate change problem that threatens the whole world and nowhere more imminently than our tiny Pacific neighbours. There is clamour for NZ to take in more refugees and AIM fully supports that – the inhabitants of these doomed atolls need to be at the top of the list. All of them, if necessary – we’re only talking thousands of people.

This is not a solution to the problem of climate change (that’s a whole other, but vitally related, issue, one which Trump is actively making worse) – it is merely a reaction to the problem, a recognition that we have a responsibility to help our neighbours whom we have harmed.

There are other regional issues that Aotearoa should be addressing. Decolonisation of France’s Pacific empire is an obvious one. Support the benighted people of West Papua to gain their freedom from Indonesia, in the same way we (very belatedly) supported the East Timorese people.

Confront the government of the Philippines over its shocking human rights record (President Duterte makes Trump look like a sensitive new age guy). Offer the peace-making skills that we demonstrated so successfully in Bougainville to help the Philippines to find an end to the wars that have wracked it for more than half a century.

These are some regional examples of where Aotearoa could offer to “lend a hand” (to quote Jacinda Ardern on the Manus Island refugees).

This material is an extract from a longer AIM generic flyer, which can be read online here.

AIM will be officially launched in Blenheim, as part of the Waihopai spy base protest activities, on Saturday, January 27. Details online at AIM Launch Event page updated.

Murray Horton
Aotearoa Independence Movement

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