Monday, July 30, 2007

Cool Heads, Lukewarm Brains, And Dr. Haneef

Dr. Mohammed Haneef, charged with owning a SIM card found in a burned-out jeep in Glasgow, is a free man. He left Australia for a "hero's welcome" in India after Australian Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews changed his mind about revoking Dr. Haneef's visa. The Aussie IM decided that Dr. Haneef's work visa would remained canceled.

Dr. Haneef's employer, Gold Coast Hospital, wants him back. They said that the doctor's job was waiting for him, if an outbreak of sanity occurred in the Australian Immigration Ministry.

Australian judicial authorities had a lucid moment last week, realizing that their case against the doctor was baseless.

Much to his credit, Australian Director of Public Prosecutions Bugg said that his office shouldn't have recommended charging the foreign doctor in the first place.

Australian authorities haven't come out looking all that competent in this caper. Even the arrest of Dr. Haneef, as he was leaving Australia to be with his wife and newborn daughter, probably wouldn't have happened if the good doctor hadn't called the police to let them know that he was leaving.

That call they paid attention to. The ones he had made, trying to clear up the mess, hadn't been returned.

I'm afraid that quite a few people in the Australian government should get some sort of award for their performance.

I suggest the creation of an award for the sort of outstanding law enforcement and jurisprudence displayed recently: the Keystone Cops Tinplate Slapstick; presented to deserving officials, for nitwittery above and beyond the call of nature.

Foolishness aside: Even though this exercise in lunacy has a guardedly happy ending, a bungled bit bureaucratic buffoonery like this is a very serious matter.

I'm acutely aware of how Dr. Haneef's rights were mis-handled. That shouldn't have happened, obviously. The good news here is that Dr. Haneef was able to clear his name quickly, unlike another sure-fire suspect, Richard Jewell, Dr. Haneef was not attacked by news media, and was able to clear his name quickly. (I bring Mr. Jewell up a lot in this connection, because I believe there are similarities in the way these two men were treated.)

Just as bad, perhaps worse, this get-the-foreign-doctor debacle makes it much easier for people to distrust the Australian government, and by extension all governments. People with the sort of power wielded by government officials are frightening when they turn their brains down to 'lukewarm.'

I hope that Dr. Haneef is allowed to work in Australia again, and that he is safe in doing so. It seems that Australia needs good doctors.

Perhaps the Australian Immigration Minister, if he decides to unrevoke Dr. Haneef's work visa, should consider encouraging foreign psychiatrists to work in Australia. Judging from the way so many officials acted in the Haneef matter, the psychiatrists would have no trouble finding work.

Posts on this topic:Information from, "Doctor Gets Hero's Welcome in India


Ottavio (Otto) Marasco said...

There is a great deal of political fall out because of the Dr Haneef bungle. The minister concerned initially said he was going to release previously sensitive information about the case, perhaps as a way of clearing his involvement but has since been advised not to and Prime Minister John Howard says it is unlikely Mohamed Haneef will be allowed back into the country, and has refused to offer him an apology. He added, "Dr Haneef was not victimised, and Australia's international reputation has not been harmed by this 'mis-start' to its new anti-terrorism laws." I disagree.

Brian H. Gill said...

In the long run, perhaps, Australia's international reputation will not be harmed by Dr. Haneef's remarkable treatment. In the short term, however, PM J. Howard's statement seems to be more wishful thinking than demonstrable fact.

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