02 June 2009

Police reaction to Indian student protests damages Australia's reputation

Video of the - to put it mildly - vigorous police response to the protest by Indian international students in Melbourne against race motivated assaults has gone around the world.

Unfortunately the official response from authorities here has been deficient. Last night on ABC TV's Lateline Simon Overland came across more like PC Plod than the Victoria Police Chief Commissioner:

SIMON OVERLAND, CHIEF COMMISSIONER VICTORIA POLICE: There were other people who became involved, most of them weren't Indian, they were there for their own reasons, and I think the whole thing just got hijacked and got out of control.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: With international attention on his officers, Simon Overland was there this morning and personally entered the crowd.

SIMON OVERLAND: We'd been in discussions with them for a long time. It got to the point where we needed to clear the intersection. So as I say, if they've been injured, I regret that, but in terms of what I saw, the police action was entirely justified and appropriate.
SIMON OVERLAND: They've made their point, they've made it very powerfully. It's a point we already understood, but they've made it to the rest of the community, and I think the rest of the community understands it. If they're not careful they'll overplay their hand and the support for them will quickly evaporate.

Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have condemned the attacks which gave rise to the protests but it's taken until tonight for the Foreign Minister to get out of the blocks and announce the establishment of a taskforce to investigate the issue . Commissioner Overland is not a member.

Better late than never but a lot of damage, some of it unnecessary, has been done to Australia's reputation as reports in, for example, The Hindu , Al Jazeera and the BBC attest.

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