The shipwreck of the MV Wakashio has caused one of Mauritiuss worst environmental catastrophes and its devastating impact is expected to last for decades. Over 1 000 tonnes of fuel oil leaked into pristine Mauritian waters, covering the nearby shore in toxic sludge and immersing the ecosystem in a desperate struggle for survival.
This environmental crisis couldnt have occurred at a worse time for Mauritius. The spill will seriously impede the recovery of a Mauritian economy highly dependent on coastal tourism and already battered by COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Mauritius and other African states need to promptly review their contingency strategies and response capacities so we can start positing immediate lessons to be learnt.
The national and international response to the MV Wakashio crisis was commendable. France, India, Japan and the International Maritime Organization cooperated to support local Mauritian efforts in a race against time to pump out the fuel from the vessel, which eventually broke apart on 15 August. Meanwhile local volunteers flocked to the shore with improvised booms and barriers.
Mauritius and other African states need to urgently review their contingency strategies
While a full investigation and report is urgently required, it is possible to start piecing together a narrative of what has occurred and how it turned so bad so quickly.
The MV Wakashio left China on 14 July heading for Brazil. On 25 July it ran aground on the reefs located roughly a mile off Pointe dEsny and the Blue Bay Marine Park along the south-eastern shore of Mauritius. No oil leakage was reported at the time, and the Mauritius coast guard swiftly deployed booms and took other preventive actions. The government activated its National Oil Spill Contingency Plan the following day.
By 5 August a minor oil slick was observed surrounding the vessel. It was still assumed that the countrys contingency plan was sufficient and that the risk of oil spill was still low. But then the MV Wakashio flooded and began sinking. Oil started to spill into the sea.
On 7 August Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a national environment emergency. Fisheries Minister Sudheer Maudhoo suggested that this is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem. Mauritius called for international help once the scale of the emergency became apparent and quickly overwhelmed the resources and capacity of the countrys national contingency plan.
The disaster demonstrates how even seemingly small oil leaks and spills can be devastating
Some of these resources were acquired as part of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Highway Development and Coastal and Marine Contamination Prevention project from 2007-2012. The project also called for the establishment of the Regional Marine Pollution Co-ordination Centre (RCC) for Marine Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Western Indian Ocean.
South Africa will host the RCC, and its establishment must now be expedited. The disaster demonstrates how even seemingly small oil leaks and spills can be devastating, especially when they occur in sensitive and critically important environmental areas.
Will other African countries and regional organisations develop sufficient capacity to respond to crises on the scale of the MV Wakashio without depending on international assistance? There is a great risk of oil spills and leaks occurring elsewhere in the African maritime domain in the future, especially spills that occur during bunkering.
The Cape of Good Hope route is a maritime super highway. Some countries, like South Africa, are able to swiftly respond on their own, as demonstrated in May when the potential wreck of the Yuan Hua Hu, also carrying 4 000 tonnes of fuel oil, was narrowly averted.
Theres a great risk of oil spills occurring elsewhere in Africa, especially during bunkering
Many countries such as Mauritius lack at least some of the resources or capacities needed to deal with such a disaster. Governments require up-to-date assessments to plan future responses. Better and more collective resources and skills at a regional or continental level are required.
Improved accountability mechanisms are also important. The Japanese owners of the MV Wakashio have offered, under international obligations, to pay compensation for applicable damages caused by the oil spill. Yet in other cases it might not be as easy to track the owners and determine liability (as can be seen in the investigation into the tragic Beirut port explosion of 4 August).
It is time for African maritime institutions to review their approaches and develop appropriate expertise and response mechanisms. This should ensure fast and effective regional or continental action when the inevitable oil leaks arise.
The results should be reported to key multilateral organisations – ideally to the African Union (AU) – as part of the implementation of 2050 Africas Integrated Maritime Strategy. The AU could, for instance, convene a consultative forum for experience and skills sharing with inputs from all the regional economic communities such as that hosted by the Southern African Development Community in 2018.
Disaster relief is expensive, but is nowhere near as controversial as other maritime issues such as creating security frameworks and determining boundaries. It can also foster collaboration anchored in regional AU institutions that draw on indigenous expertise and capacities.
Removal of artwork showing names of murdered women, children draws anger
An artwork depicting names of Australian women and children lost to male violence has been removed from a museum, amid claims it was considered “inappropriate” and “uncomfortable”.
The Lost Petition artwork, listing almost 1000 women and children who have died since 2008, was hung in the Her Place Women’s Museum Australia in East Melbourne for only a week when it was taken down on Wednesday.
Femicide researcher Sherele Moody, who collaborated with artist Dans Bain on the artwork, said the museum had asked to exhibit it.
But when the 30m artwork was hung along the ceiling featuring the names of the murder victims, it drew a reaction.
“While Dans was hanging it, someone came up and said it was really confronting and inappropriate and shouldn’t be there,” Ms Moody said.
“She just brushed it off.
“But then yesterday the museum contacted her and said they were taking it down because it wasn’t appropriate to have it alongside the Emily’s List exhibition there at the moment.”
Ms Moody, a News Corp journalist and founder of the Red Heart Campaign, which aims to end domestic and family violence, said the decision to take it down was “infuriating”.
“Literally what they’re saying, from my perspective, is the stories of women and children lost to violence are not worthy of being seen or heard,” she said.
“These women and children are an inconvenience and inappropriate.
“The murder of women and children is too uncomfortable for them.”
Ms Moody said a museum dedicated to women was the perfect place to display the work.
But the organisation based on celebrating women had now taken down an artwork detailing the greatest social issue facing them.
Families of the victims depicted were “extremely upset” at its removal, as it was a tribute to their memory and highlighted the impact of domestic violence, Ms Moody said.
Her Place museum said the Emily’s List exhibition organisers requested the artist remove the petition from the space, where a new exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of Emily’s List – a network for progressive Labor women in politics – was installed.
“Due to the size and scale of the Lost Petition, there was no alternative space at Her Place Museum to exhibit the artwork,” the museum said.
The Her Place board would reinstall the artwork later in the year, in a move it said the artist agreed on as part of the Her Voice program of Australian Women’s activism.
“The exhibiting of The Lost Petition was at the invitation of Her Place Museum Australia. It is a powerful artwork and that power is reflected in the feedback we have received,” the museum said.
Artist Dans Bain said the decision to remove her artwork made her “uneasy”.
“The fact that this work has been censored speaks to the stigma of male violence against women and children. It is an uncomfortable reality,” she posted on Facebook on Thursday.
“This work lists almost 1000 women and children, every woman and child on the Lost Petition is a loved one and has families that love them. They are not an inconvenience.”
Emily’s List Australia said it had a long term booking at the museum, which as a new facility had competing demands for space.
“Difficult decisions need to be made about how to display significant material in a small public space, during limited run exhibits,” the organisation said.
“The removal of The Lost Petition was temporary to enable installation in a more permanent way … and to ensure other women’s history exhibits move seamlessly in and around it.
“It’s a big, bold piece of art and it deserves showcasing.”
The organisation added protecting women from gendered violence was far from complete and “we are all dedicated to this work”.
Senator Claire Chandler unable to answer question on who is calling for ban of trans women in single sex sports
A Tasmanian senator pushing for transgender people to be excluded from women’s sport has been unable to name a single sporting organisation in the state who has called for the change.
Under a proposal introduced to parliament earlier this month, senator Claire Chandler wants the Sex Discrimination Act to be amended so it would not be unlawful for a sporting club to ban a person from a team based on their biological sex.
In a sensational grilling on ABC Radio Hobart, Senator Chandler was repeatedly asked to clarify who in particular is calling for the change.
“I’m not going to get into specifics,” she said.
When asked a further three times by host Leon Compton, the senator stood firm.
“What I will say is that I’ve been contacted by parents of girls who have realised how despondent their girls have become competing in sport, in situations where they’re competing against males and feeling like they’re not good enough to be in the game.”
“Is it possible, Claire Chandler, that this isn’t an issue at all; the fact that you can’t name a single group,” Mr Compton quipped back.
“Leon, like I said, I’m not going to get into specifics with you,” she responded.
She added she had been contacted by “sporting administrators” who have been concerned about the legal action that could be taken against them if they do exclude a transgender person from a single-sex sport.
“You look at what is happening with Leah Thomas in the United States, where this trans woman, I should say, swimmer, who’s beating her female counterparts by seven seconds in the pool. That is just madness,” Senator Chandler said.
Senator Chandler’s bill came back into the spotlight after Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed he had encouraged her to pursue it.
“I support it, as Claire knows. I think it’s a terrific Bill and I’ve given her great encouragement,” Mr Morrison told reporters on the hustings in Tasmania.
“Claire is a champion for women’s sport and I think she’s been right to raise these issues in the way that she has. Well done, Claire.”
But it remains to be seen if Mr Morrison’s backing will translate into broader support.
To have the bill introduced to the upper house, Senator Chandler had to do so as a private members bill, meaning she did not have support of the wider cabinet to put it on the agenda.
“If it was such a great bill, why isn‘t it endorsed by the cabinet?” Mr Compton pressed repeatedly.
“I’ve had a number of conversations with the Prime Minister obviously and with my colleagues about this issue. And look, if it’s something that the cabinet wants to consider, then that is obviously a matter for them,” Senator Chandler retorted.
With only three days left in the parliamentary sitting calendar, it is unlikely the Bill will pass, or even make it to the lower house, before the election.
Liberal MP Bridget Archer told Scott Morrison would decide if she could attend Grace Tame speech
Child sex abuse survivor and Liberal MP Bridget Archer was told the decision on whether or not she could attend a speech by Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins was “up to the Prime Minister.”
The confusion was blamed last night on a communication breakdown between the Whip’s office and the Prime Minister’s office.
The PMO insists it instructed the whips this morning to seek pairs from Labor for those Government MPs wanting to attend Wednesday’s National Press Club address.
That didn’t happen with Ms Archer told at 3pm it was “up to the PM” before she was finally told she could go after 7pm when news.com.au contacted the PMO.
In a major speech to be delivered at the national press club on Wednesday, the former Australian of the Year will speak out on tackling child sex abuse in Australia.
Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer secured a last-minute ticket to the sold out event on Tuesday, but her request to attend the event was not immediately granted.
Liberal colleagues claim she was told by party whip Bert Van Manem that it was “up to the PM.”
Despite Labor’s offer to allow her to leave Parliament despite the tight numbers on the floor of the House of Representatives, confusion reigned about whether she could attend.
After news.com.au contacted the Prime Minister’s office at 7:05 pm on Tuesday night, Ms Archer’s office then got a call 5 minutes later confirming she was cleared to attend.
The outspoken MP earlier declared she planned to cross the floor and vote against the Morrison Government’s religious freedom laws because they were in breach of Tasmanian anti-discrimination laws.
She told Parliament she was “horrified” that proposed amendments excluded children that identified as transgender.
“After so much progress how did we get back to a place where we ignore the harm we place on children when we tell them they are ‘other’, ‘less than’ and do not deserve rights and protections afforded to others – I fear it may risk lives,” Ms Archer said.
Labor’s manager of government business Tony Burke took to Twitter on Tuesday to insist there was no barrier from Labor MPs on Ms Archer or other MPs attending.
“If requests come in for the Press Club we will accommodate the same as we did for March4Justice,’’ he said.
“The government’s claim that we are meant to offer pairs that they haven’t requested is weird. And wrong.”
Last year, Ms Archer told news.com.au she burst into tears after she was taken to the Prime Minister’s office to discuss her decision to cross the floor on another matter despite repeatedly telling his staff she wanted to delay the discussion.
While Scott Morrison described the talks as “friendly”, Ms Archer said she was ambushed by the meeting and had earlier asked to delay it.
“I didn’t feel like I was being marched to the principal’s office. I just felt a little disappointed that it happened when I had expressed to the Prime Minister’s office that I would have preferred, that my preference was not at that time,” she told news.com.au.
“And I had said in the text messages to the Prime Minister’s office that I didn’t want to have the meeting, before the meeting.
“They sent me a message saying he wanted to see me at 12.15pm. I said I am not ready. I need a break.
“It was a big thing. It was just the emotion of the moment.”
Ms Archer is a child sexual assault survivor who voted with independent MP Helen Haines to suspend standing orders to establish an anti-corruption commission.
“I have found this year incredibly difficult, personally because of my own history as a child sexual abuse survivor,” she said.
“It has been difficult for me to sit with discipline in unity with all this going on around me and it has hurt me. It has hurt me.
“But I am not weak. I’m telling you that I don’t think that some of these things are the right way forward.
“That language being used yesterday about drones and warm bodies. That’s what I said to him. That I am not a drone.”
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