Interview: Richard Holbrooke

JANA WENDT: Ambassador Holbrooke, when you look back now, not only at your time as UN Ambassador but your key involvement in crises like Bosnia and Kosovo, do you feel “mission accomplished”, or more work left undone?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: I think there`s always work to be done in international relations – Problems don`t get solved without new problems arising.

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but I think that in the areas you`ve mentioned – Bosnia, Kosovo, the United Nations, a few others – the situation today is better than it was five years ago, and so we can say, “Well, we helped out.”

JANA WENDT: In the case of Bosnia and Kosovo, the US went in there for the sake of certain principles. Do you think, in the case of Bosnia firstly, which was effectively partitioned, that those principles won out in the end?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: When was it partitioned?

JANA WENDT: Well, it`s a de facto partition, isn`t it?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: You can get in a car in Zagreb today, drive through the Serb part of Bosnia, drive to Sarajevo, keep going and drive all the way to Kosovo, and keep going and drive all the way to Greece, and no-one will ever stop you. Do you call that partition?

JANA WENDT: But the continuing enmity between those ethic groups is as good as an unofficial partition, isn`t it?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: No. I think you have enmity among ethnic groups, which is a code word for racial groups, in many countries – including, regrettably, ours and perhaps there`s some racial problems that still exist in Australia.

The issues in Bosnia are real, but let`s not confuse racial tension, which is one of the underlying facts of the world today, and one of the most pernicious – let`s not confuse that with a war based on false ethnic divisions. I stress `false`, because there never really was any significant difference between Croats, Muslims and Serbs. You can`t tell the difference between them when you walk down the street. They spoke the same language – still do. They intermarried in large numbers; it was a secular society; it was exploited by demagogues.

JANA WENDT: And yet the issues of justice remaining hanging over from that war are dramatic, aren`t they – where the tribunal is talking about 16 more years, perhaps, to hear all the cases involved?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Truth and reconciliation – to use the phase from South Africa – is a vital part of binding up the wounds of war in any society. We need to promote the search for justice.

When a few days ago, Madam Plavsic, the former president of the Serb part of Bosnia, voluntarily surrendered to The Hague – a woman who knows the secrets and was a henchperson of Karadzic, the worst war criminal in Europe, and Milosevic, another indicted war criminal hiding now in Belgrade; hiding in full sight, I might add – when Madam Plavsic voluntarily went to The Hague, that was another breakthrough.

But you`re absolutely right about truth in reconciliation, but I don`t agree with you about partition. There are still separatists abroad in the land, and I`m sure that`s what you`re referring to – people who would like to tear the country apart. But day by day, month by month, election by election, they`re losing ground.

All three of the men who I negotiated with five years ago are gone and a post-Dayton generation is coming to the fore and they`re coming back together. It`s slow, Jana – it`s slower than it ought to be. I`m very unhappy with the some of the implementation, but the country is not partitioned.

JANA WENDT: Do you accept that the failure to make the issue of Kosovo an issue at Dayton led to the taking up of arms by the Kosovars?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: No, absolutely not. Let me make two points – one about Dayton and secondly, what happened at Kosovo. First of all, the parties came to Dayton to settle the war in Bosnia, a war in which 300,000 people died and 2.5 million were made homeless. The actual numbers in Kosovo are like, maybe 3%-4% of that. So the numbers were not comparable.

The real major war that was blowing Europe up was in Bosnia, not in Kosovo. The leaders, Tudjman, Izetbegovic and Milosevic, who went to Dayton went only to settle this. However, I did continually raise Kosovo with Milosevic, and he wouldn`t talk about it, and Izetbegovic and Tudjman said, “We don`t want to talk about it.”

Now, what happened was the war was caused by Milosevic`s refusal to have a peaceful dialogue with Dr Rugova, the peaceful, non-violent leader of the Albanian-Kosovar movement. And when Rugova couldn`t produce a deal for a peaceful, Martin Luther King, Ghandi-type approach, a group of people modelling themselves after the IRA and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, PLO, decided to use violence to provoke international tension. And they call themselves the KLA, the Kosovo Liberation Army, and they succeeded spectacularly. And in less than a year, an organisation that no-one in the world had heard of beforehand had seized world opinion and created a crisis.

Milosevic made every mistake in the book. His brutality in cracking down on the Albanians galvanised people, polarised people, and pulled everyone into this conflict.

JANA WENDT: When you deliver an ultimatum to a man like Milosevic how do you…

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: (Laughs) I don`t know anyone else like Milosevic. There`s no-one else like him.

JANA WENDT: How do you, in that situation – how do you gauge how to use the enormous power that is vested in you?

RICHARD HOLBREOOKE: Milosevic and I had about a half-dozen real ultimatum showdowns over the negotiations from 1995-1999. And in all but the last one, he backed down and we got what we wanted. Sometimes we had to bomb to do it. We bombed in 1995 and bombed them to the peace table and bombed them to Dayton and got a peace agreement which still holds five years later for Bosnia.

In October of `98, we had the bombers on the runways and Britain and the US ready to go, and he backed down and gave us what we wanted. And 130,000 people came out of the hills just before winter and came back down to their homes and their lives were saved. They would have frozen to death.

But in March of 1999, when I delivered the final ultimatum, he had made up his mind to take the hit – that is, to take the air strikes. And that was a whole different meeting. I think he misjudged us. He thought we weren`t going to hit him as hard as we did. It was a mistake.

JANA WENDT: Presumably he misjudged you because of what was seen as procrastination in Washington because…

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: No. You know why I think he misjudged us, Jana? I`ve thought a lot about this. Because there was such a contrast between his behaviour in October of `98, when he gave us what we wanted and he was really sweating it, and March of `99 when he said very calmly, “Go ahead and bomb us.”

My theory – I can`t prove it, but my theory is that somebody had leaked to him from NATO the secret bombing plans. And the initial bombing plans were for a very weak slap on the wrists – not a serious, sustained bombing campaign. And I don`t think he realised how hard NATO was going to hit him.

JANA WENDT: But plainly speaking, is it true that Kosovar villages were emptied out of their inhabitants because of the story of an intern and the President?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: No. I think that`s a stretch. I`m not going to pretend that political factors don`t affect the context of decision-making, but let`s be very clear on this. When Secretary Albright, Secretary Cohen and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger went to the Hill two days before my October `98 trip to Kosovo and Belgrade, two days beforehand, the Republicans said absolutely clearly, “Under no circumstances can Holbrooke negotiate for American or NATO ground troops in Kosovo.”

JANA WENDT: Did you feel your hands were tied by that?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Not tied, but kind of loosely bound. I had a huge threat – B52s on the runway. But what I was seeking in return for not bombing was not sufficient, and I said so at the time. But those were my instructions, and that was not because of Monica Lewinsky – although I won`t try to pretend it wasn`t part of the mood. but it would have been the same thing with or without Lewinsky, because it was driven by the leadership of the Congress at that point.

JANA WENDT: Let me take you back to that point again – this enormous power that was vested in you as an individual to negotiate with this man, Milosevic. How do you gauge how to play that power that you have?

RISCHARD HOLBROOKE: I didn`t think of it as power – I thought of it as a responsibility. It`s kind of scary to go in there and you`re talking to a genuinely bad man who started four wars, lost them all, who has wrecked south central Europe, who seems to have no conscience at all, and it`s not a lot of fun. It`s like mountain-climbing without a rope, without anyone belaying you. If you fall, you`re going to go all the way down.

JANA WENDT: Let me bring you back to our part of the world. Obviously, you have a very keen interest in Indonesia. Talk today about the probable disintegration of Indonesia is very common. What you think about the situation?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: In my nightmares, I see Indonesia becoming a South-East Asian Yugoslavia, torn apart by ethic divisions that are accentuated by demagogues who turn minor differences into major ones. Let`s face it, Indonesia is far more ethnically diverse than Yugoslavia was, and it has far more capacity for bloody explosions, as we saw in 1965-66 and again more recently. So I really worry about it.

I respect President Wahid a great deal – Gus Dur, I know him. I think it was a fantastic thing to bring democracy to Indonesia and to finally let East Timor go. But the seeds of disintegration have not been conquered. The forces of backwardness and darkness, epitomised by General Wiranto and some of his colleagues, remain around.

The fact that those refugee camps in West Timor are still filled with people too afraid to go home over a year later. I visited those camps, as I suspect you have. They are just awful, awful camps, and it`s a grotesque thing that the world community has to pay for those people to live in those camps instead of allowing them to go home. So Indonesia is one to watch. Ambon, Aceh, and West Irian Jaya, all are areas of genuine concern.

Medvedev elected Russian president

Dmitry Medvedev has been elected to succeed Vladimir Putin as president of Russia, according to near complete results announced by the central election commission.

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Commission chief Vladimir Churov said the results based on a count of 99.4 percent of the vote showed that Medevedev had won 70.23 percent.

“He is the obvious leader,” Mr Churov said.

Medvedev was trailed by Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov with 17.76 percent, followed by populist nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 9.37 percent and relative unknown Andrei Bogdanov with 1.29 percent, Mr Churov said.

The fraction of ballots that remained to be counted were mainly from votes cast abroad, in Asia and the Americas, Mr Churov said.

Despite widespread reports of election violations, Mr Churov said the vote had proceeded without incident.

“We have not noted any fraud or alteration of vote results,” he said.

Turnout among the country's 108.95 million voters was 69.61 percent, he added.

Turnout was particularly high in the North Caucasus region, Mr Churov said, with 91.2 percent in Chechnya, 92.03 percent in neighbouring Ingushetia and 90 percent in Dagestan.

Democratic potential 'unfulfilled'

Russia's “democratic potential” was unfulfilled in the presidential election won by Vladimir Putin's successor Dmitry Medvedev, the head of the sole Western observer mission said Monday.

“The results of the presidential election are a reflection of the will of an electorate whose democratic potential was unfortunately not tapped,” said Andreas Gross, from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

It's not cricket

REPORTER: Nick Lazaredes

TIFFANY CHERRY, PRESENTER,“THE NATION”: Our next guest is a former fast bowler and Sheffield Shield Captain for NSW.

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As a cricket commentator he has worked for ABC Radio, Fox Sports and of course channel nine. Earlier this week it was announced that he will be taking over possibly one of the most difficult jobs in sport, coach of Pakistan's cricket team, please welcome Geoff Henry Lawson.

Geoff Lawson was one of Australia's most accomplished bowlers but when he was confirmed as Pakistan's new cricket coach, some in the media poked fun at his appointment.

MICK MALLOY, PRESENTER, “THE NATION”: What the hell are you thinking? Is this a dare? You know how this job became available don’t you?

With rumours swirling around the sudden death of the previous coach Bob Woolmer, this was world cricket's most talked about job vacancy.

MICK MALLOY, “THE NATION”: Would it have been different for you if it had been found to be murder as oppose to natural causes?

GEOFF LAWSON, COACH, PAKISTANI CRICKET TEAM: Yes.

Bob Woolmer died in Jamaica in March this year, just one day after Pakistan was knocked out in the first round of the cricket World Cup. There were remarkable scenes when the team was told of Woolmer's death as Jamaican Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, consoled the distraught players.

TALAT ALI, PAKISTANI CRICKET TEAM MANAGER: We have lost a great guy in Bob. As time heals and time goes on, we will, you know, come out of this difficult time. As I said, in Jamaica, it was a very, very difficult time.

In Lahore, Dateline was allowed to film the first post World Cup training camp for the Pakistani national team. When Woolmer died the media placed the entire team under a cloud of suspicious. After Pakistan's shocking performance in the World Cup there was intense speculation that the coach and some of the team might have been involved in match fixing. It's a charge that's plagued Pakistani cricket for years.

TALAT ALI: We were not arrested, we were not detained. We were – we in fact wanted to help the police and the police were very co-operative with us. They wanted to interview some of the players and we said fine but we will do it after the game against Zimbabwe and they said “Fine”.

GEOFF LAWSON: You’ve got a good seam, you set everything up, you got everything right, put your hands here.

These fortunate students from Sydney's Scott's College know that Geoff Lawson is one of Australia's most talented professional coaches. Lawson clearly loves nurturing talent but he knows that when it comes to his new job in Pakistan, protecting his players from rumour and innuendo will be just as important.

GEOFF LAWSON: One of the problems the team will have is to ignore the extraneous external upsetting, inaccurate opinions and get on with playing the game. But avoiding those sort of factors will be key to the players doing the best they can. People can say what they like in the press, but it is how the players get on with their job, that's the important thing.

But why do allegations of corruption and match-fixing continue to plague the Pakistani team?

HANSI CRONJE, FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN CAPTAIN, PRESS CONFERENCE: They phoned me and urged me to go ahead with fixing the match.

Back in 2000 when South African Captain Hansi Cronje broke down and admitted to corrupt dealings with bookies, perceptions of the gentleman's game changed for ever. The fact that South Africa's coach throughout Cronje's crooked period was none other than Bob Woolmer has led to no end of unsubstantiated speculation in Pakistan.

SARFRAZ NAWAZ, FORMER PAKISTANI CRICKETER: I personally feel that Bob Woolmer knew each and everything, even he knew the name of the bookies, he knew the name of where the match was fixed and which match was fixed.

Sarfraz Nawaz is one of Pakistan's most successful test cricketers, having played under Imran Khan and against Geoff Lawson. He believes cricket in Pakistan has long been corrupted by a massive illegal gambling racket. Dateline was allowed to film this bookies assistant taking illegal bets on local and international matches. Gamblers don't just bet on the game's outcome but on the batting line up, the number of overs a bowler will bowl and some time even the condition of the pitch. Certainly in the past, there has been strong evidence of players and bookies conspiring to fix the odds.

SARFRAZ NAWAZ: So this gambling mafia they act like that, you know, they have their own people on each and every ground from producing pitches, to umpiring, to players…They are all involved.

JUSTICE MALIK MUHHAMED QAYYUM: What I discovered was that one, there were players involved in match fixing and there is great evidence to the effect that match fixing is going on.

Seven years ago Justice Malik Muhhamed Qayyum was asked to investigate corruption in Pakistani cricket.

JUSTICE MALIK MUHHAMED QAYYUM: There are all sorts of people involved in this. Apart from the players there are bookmakers, there are other dangerous people who are at the back of it and there are very few, therefore, who are willing to give any evidence, or, I had to virtually force some people to tell the truth.

Although his inquiry's powers were limited, Justice Qayyum fined 8 players, either because of their contact with bookies, or in the case of former captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq, their unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation. In his report Qqyyum found sufficient evidence to convict Salim Malik of match fixing and recommended that a life ban be imposed on Malik, then the team captain. According to Justice Qayyum, it was clear there were high level attempts to sabotage his inquiry.

JUSTICE MALIK MUHHAMED QAYYUM: Towards the end of the enquiry I was asked by th then government to enquire into the match between Pakistan and Bangladesh in England which Pakistan lost. When I started the enquiry, about two weeks thereafter, my appointment notification was rescinded by the government. And I was asked not to do it, the reason being that there were very high persons whose names were involved in that.

Justice Qayyum also recommended that bowler, Mushtaq Ahmed should not be given any office of responsibility on the team but at this year's World Cup in the West Indies, Mushtaq Ahmed was Bob Woolmer’s assistant coach. Although Geoff Lawson says he can't really comment on the failure to follow the judge's advice, he believes lessons have been learned.

GEOFF LAWSON: The fact that people were found to have done the wrong thing and fined, that's a good thing for World Cricket, and of course the anti-corruption commission is significantly strengthened since that time so it's become, on the one hand, very much harder to be involved in any sort of issues of that era. I think players have woken up to the fact that the game deserves more than that sort of treatment. So it's a two-fold effect. It's more enforcement but the players have become far more responsible.

Despite Lawson's up beat assessment, the Pakistani team has continued to arouse suspicions in the years since Justice Qayyum's report. And it was the team's dismal performance at this year's World Cup that really started the rumour mill in earnest.

SARFRAZ NAWAZ: First match, Pakistan played against the West Indies and you can see the players playing under par.

Sarfraz Nawaz is convinced he knows how to spot a fixed match.

SARFRAZ NAWAZ: And one could see Inzamam batting so slow and then in bowling if you see, the changes Inzamam-ul-Haq made were pathetic. And even the tail-enders scored 57 runs off the last 5 overs. They wanted to give away runs so they could score runs and the bowlers were not used properly, and one could see, still where they have played under par and the match appears to be fixed and it was, I think, 100% a fixed match.

GEOFF LAWSON: I suppose Sarfraz is entitled to his opinion as everybody else is.

Geoff Lawson sees nothing sinister in Pakistan's poor performance.

GEOFF LAWSON: That's the game, you know. People aren't perfect. If people were crowd, media, commentators, ex-players expect the team to be perfect, they have got very unreal expectations.

In fact Justice Qayyum's shares Sarfraz Nawaz's suspicions that says that proving a match is fixed is extremely difficult.

REPORTER: Did you see the West Indies match?

JUSTICE MALIK MUHHAMED QAYYUM: Yes, I did see and to me it was quite apparent that the Pakistan team was not trying to win. Especially towards the end of the West Indies innings, lots of runs were given away. But it is very, you know, very difficult to find direct evidence. If somebody has to commit a crime or to fix the match or to bribe somebody it won’t be done in the open. And the minimum thing which people do is that there should be no witnesses.

Senator Anwar Baig takes his cricket so seriously, he has decided to protest over what he sees as a lack of accountability in the national cricket board.

SENATOR ANWAR BAIG: It's pathetic. The people of this country are absolutely in a state of shock after this debacle of Pakistan cricket at the World Cup in the West Indies.

Senator Baig says the Pakistan Cricket Board has failed to clean up the problems in the game.

SENATOR ANWAR BAIG: If you go and see Justice Qayyum's report, he has given ways and means to check this match fixing business and to see the assets of these players on an annual basis. But unfortunately the Pakistan Cricket Board has paid no heed to the recommendations given by Justice Qayyum.

In fact in April, the head of the cricket board, Dr Nasim Ashraf and captain Inzamum – ul – Haq were called to appear before a special parliamentary committee and explain the team's miserable performance in the World Cup.

SENATOR ANWAR BAIG: The gentleman Dr Nasim Ashraf, unfortunately he is not a Pakistani national, he is an American national, and he just happens to be a personal friend of Mr Mushareff. It is on that basis he has been appointed, he has no love for Pakistan cricket, he is a doctor by profession, he is a kidney specialist.

Cricket board boss Dr Ashraf turned down Dateline's request for an interview.

IMRAN KHAN, FORMER PAKISTAN CAPTAIN: Here I have plenty of land to build a big house.

Legendary cricketer Imran Khan captained the World Cup team when it won the World Cup for the first and only time in 1992. The so-called Lion of Lahore is now an opposition politician and he also blames Pakistan's cricket woes on the current administration.

IMRAN KHAN: You have a chairman of the cricket board whose own legitimacy is he happens to be a friend or a choice of the President of the country. Now the President of the country might or might not know anything about cricket so he then chooses the head of the cricket board who becomes the chairman and the chairman then becomes a mini dictator.

Khan says that Pakistan's cricketers are accused of match fixing all too often.

IMRAN KHAN: Once there are doubts about, you know, a cricket match or once there are rumours about match fixing, whenever a team loses a match, particularly in Pakistan, we have had this past 10 years, there are rumours about match fixing come out.

Across the road from Lahore's Gaddafi stadium lies the Pakistan cricket academy where loyal fans stand for hours to catch a glimpse of their favourite players. It will soon be home to Geoff Lawson, who says his first task is to get his team to forget the past.

GEOFF LAWSON: We are not going to worry about what the crowd think or what the press think or what the former players think. Unless they have something constructive to say. That will be part of the ongoing process we put in place to make sure the players don't feel those sort of pressures.

On the top floor of the cricket academy lies the trophy room. These are the crown jewels of Pakistani cricket, evidence of past glory untainted by allegations of match fixing. But if Lahore is considered the spiritual home of Pakistani cricket, then the port city of Karachi is the centre of the game's dark side.

This city is the Pakistani hub for several criminal gambling syndicates, part of a network operating across the subcontinent from Bombay to Dubai and despite the fact that in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan gambling is illegal, Pakistani bookmakers have found a devotion to the game combined with a passion for betting provides for a most lucrative trade.

MUHAMMED AYYAZ SALEEM, ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE: This is a record, you can see that it is the record between the match of England versus Ireland.

Muhammad Ayyaz Saleem is an assistant Superintendent of police of Karachi. He wanted to show me the evidence he collected on a raid in a bookies den just after the end of this year's World Cup.

MUHAMMED AYYAZ SALEEM: The money, these are the names of the betters. So these are their clients, the ir names. There is the money involved.

REPORTER: These are all World Cup matches, aren't they?

MUHAMMED AYYAZ SALEEM: These are related to the World Cup matchs.

Saleem has tape recordings of conversations between the bookies and their clients, all part of a ongoing investigation currently before the courts. But the assistant Superintendent says the toughest part of his job is fending off crooked cops in his own department.

MUHAMMED AYYAZ SALEEM: First we have to fight against those persons and the Government who are hand in glove with these people. I fight with those elements in my own department. First we have to do that. After that, concurrently you fight against the gamblers. Actually, you have to fight on two fronts, the first front and the most difficult, most dangerous front is within your own department.

Pakistan's new coach is quick to point out that there is a long association between gambling and cricket.

GEOFF LAWSON: You know, betting in cricket has gone back to the 18th century. The game was going to be banned in England in the 18th century because of gambling, it is nothing new. Now there are processes in place to deal with these things and for every crisis that comes up, there is generally an answer to solving that and the human condition always allows people to be looking for the next best way to make a quid and we can't do anything about that.

ARIF ALI KHAN ABBASI, FORMER HEAD, PAKISTANI CRICKET BOARD: It's an economic forse that can not be controlled by administration measures. Nothing can control an economic force, you can minimize it.

Arif Ali Khan Abbasi is the former boss of Pakistan's cricket board. He ran the game in Pakistan during the 1990s at the height of match fixing allegations against players.

ARIF ALI KHAN ABBASI: Like I said, it's an economic force. To turn a blind eye is stupid but to minimise it is not stupid. To say that you will eliminate it, is a fairytale. Nobody can.

Abbasi says he knows how to deal with dirty cricketers, preferably behind closed doors.

REPORTER: What you are saying it should have been handled internally?

ARIF ALI KHAN ABBASI: We have done that. I refuse to name the players. One or two players came and suggested to us that they can't keep it to themselves any more but they had been involved.

REPORTER: So you had confessions to you about fixing?

ARIF ALI KHAN ABBASI: One player in particular, that's it. And that he apologised profusely, but I remember informing the people concerned that in the light of this, don't select him, finished. That's the best way to do it.

REPORTER: What would you do if you come across any sort of evidence of fixing or corruption in cricket in Pakistan?

GEOFF LAWSON: Whether I was a coach or a player, whatever I was, or a journalist or commentator, if you hear or see of issues of match fixing, you report them straightaway to the authorities. That is certainly the case and I have a contractual obligation to do that anyway. I would have a moral obligation to deal with that and I wouldn't put up with that sort of thing in any shape or form.

The only world wide body tasked with tackling corruption in cricket is the International Cricket Council, the ICC.

JUSTICE MALIK MUHHAMED QAYYUM: What has ICC done ever since its inception? I think virtually nothing. The least they could have done was to discuss the report with me after I had given my report. Nobody bothered to contact me.

Justice Qayyum says the ICC is weak-willed when it comes to tackling crooked cricketers.

JUSTICE MALIK MUHHAMED QAYYUM: The ICC to say the least, is spineless. So you need a body that has a spine in it, a body willing to go by principle, a body which does not look on the other side when it knows something is happening, and that probably is the only solution worldwide.

Geoff Lawson clearly wants to pass on his great love for cricket and even though some of his friends believe that his new job in Pakistan is a poisoned chalice, Lawson is confident that he will prove them all wrong.

GEOFF LAWSON: A lot of my friends have said to me, well congratulations on your job but you are mad. I am getting sick of it because I am not mad. I am looking forward to it with a great deal of enthusiasm and dealing with the people, not only the players but also the fans and whole interaction. If we do this thing properly, it will be one of the best times of my life. I am looking at it from that point of view. It's a great challenge. I am going to enjoy every minute of it, no matter which way it goes, no matter how people react, I will enjoy every moment of this.

Feature Report: It’s not cricket

Reporter/Camera

NICK LAZAREDES

Editor

DAVID POTTS

ROWAN TUCKER-EVANS

Local support/ researcher

IRSHAD RAO

Original music composed by

VICKI HANSEN

Beginner's guide: US electoral system

Don't know your hanging chad from your electoral college? Check out our step-by-step guide to the US electoral system.

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So what will happen when the US goes to the polls on Tuesday, November 4th?

To vote or not to vote?

In every American state (except North Dakota), you must register to vote before you can cast a ballot.

But while Americans have the right to vote, it's not compulsory.

As a result only around 50 per cent choose to do so.

What will the vote do?

Technically, American voters don't directly elect their president.

They choose representatives from the Electoral College – or “electors”.

These electors have pledged to support a particular candidate, and thus elect the president.

There are 538 to choose from, and the larger the state – in population terms – the more electors it has (California for example has 55, while Wyoming has 3).

The winner of the election is the candidate who racks up at least 270 Electoral College votes.

In all but two states state (the exceptions being Maine and Nebraska), it's “winner take all” – meaning no matter how slim the majority is, the winner of the popular vote gets all the Electoral College votes in that state.

So it is possible for one candidate to win the popular vote, but for his or her rival to end up with more Electoral College votes – and therefore win the election.

Are some states more important than others?

Recently, states on the east and west coasts (such as New York and California) have voted Democrat, while most others have voted Republican.

But this year some states can be won by either side.

Respectively, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania have 20 or more electoral college votes.

Other key states include Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Is there a third-party candidate?

Third party candidates from the Libertarian Party (Bob Barr), Green Party and Constitution Party will also be in the running at this year's election.

It will also be Independent candidate Ralph Nader's third consecutive shot at the presidency.

In the controversial 2000 vote between George W Bush and Al Gore, national exit polls showed Nader's supporters could have handed Gore the presidency if Nader hadn't been in the running.

However, this year he is not expected to be a major factor.

Strike halts World Cup stadium work

Workers labouring on South Africa’s World Cup stadiums have gone out on strike to

press for higher wages, sparking fears of building delays a year before the event begins.

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The strike threatens the completion deadlines at five venues for the 2010 FIFA World Cup stadiums and other major projects associated with the event.

“The government must help us, otherwise we are going to delay 2010. We will strike until 2011,” said National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesman Lesiba Seshoka.

NUM is demanding a 13 per cent wage increase as well as benefits such as paid maternity leave and better safety regulations.

The South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (SAFCEC) was offering a 10 per cent increase, and spokesman Joe Campanella said the union demands totalled a wage increase of 65 per cent in rand terms, not 13 per cent.

“The protest will end at the time when SAFCEC agrees to the 13 per cent,” Seshoka said.

Hope for early resolution

Local organising committee chief executive Danny Jordaan said he hoped the strike would be over soon as construction workers were important in ensuring that South Africa was on track to meet deadlines.

“It has always been the position of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa that we respect the right of construction workers on the 2010 FIFA World Cup stadiums to strike if they feel they have legitimate grievances,” Jordaan said.

“We believe that the strike will be resolved as soon as possible and remain confident that the stadiums will be completed on schedule.”

The union said the strike was a success on its first day.

“The NUM is pleased to report that over 95 per cent of the sites were hit by the strike with a 100 per cent attendance in the first day of a rolling national strike action,” said unions negotiator Bhekani Ngcobo.

He warned that the union’s demands could go up starting next week if they are not met by then.

Workers dancing, singing

“If they do not offer us 13 per cent, we may demand 15 per cent next week and 20 per cent the following week. So, this matter is urgent,” said Ngcobo.

Paul Malatjie, 28, a construction worker at the Soccer City Stadium where strikers danced and chanted revolutionary songs, said the employees deserved better pay for their work.

“Look at the wonderful work they have done, but they need to be paid for it. The people that are benefiting are the wealthy, we are wondering where is their money,” he said.

“At the end of the day we are not even going to able to watch one single game.”

The Congress of South African Trade Unions released a statement Tuesday pledging its “total support” to the construction workers.

“Construction workers regularly put their lives on the line doing what is one of the most dangerous jobs. They require high levels of skill and have contributed massively to the development of the country, yet receive next to nothing in return,” it stated.

Transport, tools disagreement

“COSATU, and the construction workers, are as passionate about the 2010 World Cup as anyone, and will do everything possible to ensure its success. But we will not tolerate the stadiums being built by workers who are underpaid or working in dangerous and unhealthy conditions,” it said.

Workers at the Soccer City Stadium in the Soweto township outside Johannesburg also complained of the high cost of transport to the stadium and that companies made them use their own tools rather than providing them.

About 2,000 workers stopped work at midday at Soccer City Stadium while over 1,000 walked out of the construction site of Cape Town’s Green Point stadium.

Shane Choshane, another NUM spokesman, said the average worker earned about 2,500 rand ($A388.85) a month. He said the strike would continue on Thursday.

Work at the Gautrain site, a rail project that will enable passengers to travel between the government’s headquarters in Pretoria and the country’s largest city Johannesburg in just 42

minutes, also stopped.

Transport was one of the problems experienced during the recent Confederations Cup, and while the project is not due to be completed before 2011 it should partially open to provide some relief during the World Cup.

Credit card fraud warning after $6m bust

Australians have been urged to report any suspicious credit card activity after seven people were charged over a massive $6 million credit card scam using stolen personal information.

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Five people in Sydney and two in Melbourne have been arrested over a scam involving the manufacture and distribution of more than 200 fraudulent credit cards a week, using personal details obtained here and overseas.

Personal information was stolen from card holders in Australia, Spain, the UK and Malaysia, then allegedly used by the syndicate to manufacture fake credit cards, Medicare cards and driver’s licences in Australia.

The cards were then used by syndicate shoppers allegedly to purchase about $500,000 worth of items every week.

The false driver’s licences and Medicare cards acted as secondary information to back up the fake credit cards.

On Wednesday police from the Identity Security Strike Team (ISST), which includes officers from the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police Force, Australian Crime Commission, NSW Crime Commission and Department of Immigration and Citizenship, arrested five men in Sydney over the $6 million fraud.

Skimming devices used

A man and a woman were arrested in Melbourne, also on Wednesday.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Mandy Newton said the arrests were a warning to Australian card holders, because personal credit information had been stolen by methods such as skimming, which was now a global problem.

“What we are identifying is a global issue, it is not just in Australia,” Ms Newton said.

“What the community needs to make sure they do, is if you see on your credit card statements purchases that were made from different location that you haven’t made, you need to be very wary of that and notify your credit card group immediately so that your credit card can be cancelled.”

The syndicate first came to the attention of police during a 2008 Department of Immigration investigation into a suspected illegal work racket, which uncovered evidence of the credit card fraud.

“The information obtained through that investigation identified several illegal citizens who had been arrested for shopping along the east coast using fraudulent credit cards,” a Immigration Department investigator Peter Richards said.

Fake credit cards, ID

“It’s believed that these people were actually being used as the shoppers by this syndicate.”

Police allege a 53-year-old man from Homebush, in Sydney’s west, received credit card details from overseas and forwarded them to a 35-year-old man in the eastern Sydney suburb of Potts Point.

The Potts Point man allegedly used the data to produce fake credit cards and identity documents, and gave them back to the Homebush man.

He in turn allegedly distributed the credit cards and other documents to “supervisors”, who passed them on to “shoppers”.

The “shoppers” were allegedly told what to purchase with the cards and received a percentage of the value of the items eventually onsold at a discount.

The items included electronic goods, gift cards, phone cards, alcohol and stamps.

Suspects due in court

More than 1,200 credit card numbers have been involved in the scam since March 2009, Ms Newton said.

“The rationale behind having… 1,200 credit cards… is to ensure a high turnover of credit cards for the purpose of shopping and reduce the likelihood of identifying them as being false,” Ms Newton said.

Those arrested have been charged with a number of commonwealth and NSW offences, including dishonesty in dealing in financial information, dealing in the proceeds of crime, participating in a criminal group, and making and using false instruments.

Those charged in Sydney will appear at Sydney Central Local Court on Thursday.

A man charged in Melbourne has been remanded in custody to appear at Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 10.

Police are seeking the extradition of the Melbourne woman to NSW.

Australian PM says Suharto 'controversial'

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd expressed sorrow at the death of former Indonesian president Suharto Sunday but described him as “a controversial figure” on human rights and East Timor.

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Suharto died aged 86 Sunday from multiple organ failure after a three-week fight for life with heart, lung and kidney problems.

Rudd paid tribute to Suharto's role in modernising Indonesia and his role in helping establish the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and APEC, describing him as “an influential figure in Australia's region and

beyond”.

But the centre-left leader did not shy away from criticising Suharto's record during his iron-fisted rule.

“The former president was also a controversial figure in respect of human rights and East Timor and many have disagreed with his approach,” Rudd said in a statement, going on to stress the importance of Canberra-Jakarta ties.

“Now the world's third largest democracy, Indonesia is a close friend and neighbour with which Australia shares vital political and security interests.

“Indonesia's success as a modern democracy is a major interest not just to Australia, but to our region and the world.”

Suharto ordered the 1975 invasion of East Timor, setting up decades of sometimes brutal Indonesian rule during which an estimated 200,000 people died from preventable causes.

Australia played a major role in helping East Timor gain independence in 2002, souring relations with Jakarta, where many felt resentful at what they saw as Canberra meddling in internal affairs.

Rudd extended condolences to the Indonesian people.

“Former president Suharto was one of the longest-serving heads of government of the last century and an influential figure in Australia's region and beyond,” he said.

“He presided over the government of what is the world's fourth most populous country and its largest Islamic nation.

“Until the catastrophic Asian financial crisis of 1997, he oversaw a period of significant economic growth and modernisation at a time when Indonesia faced fundamental political, social and economic challenges.

“He was influential in the successful development of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and of APEC.”

Maoists extend lead in Nepal poll

Nepal's Maoists have won more seats than all the other parties put together in the country's historic polls as the count passes the one-third mark, the election commission said today.

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Of the 601 seats in a new assembly that will rewrite the Himalayan nation's constitution, 203 have been decided or were close to being allocated.

Of these, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) had won 75 seats and were leading in 34 others.

Nepal's largest party, the centrist Nepali Congress, had won 22 seats and was leading in 11 others, the commission said, while the centre-left Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) had won 21 seats and was leading in the count for 10 others.

Other parties had won, or were on track to win, 30 seats.

Local media tallies and projections have shown a similar, stunning lead for the former rebels – who are still classed as a “terrorist” organisation by the US State Department.

The April 10 elections were a central plank of a 2006 peace deal under which the Maoists agreed to end the civil war – which left at least 13,000 people dead – and enter mainstream politics.

The ultra-leftists are pushing for the ouster of unpopular King Gyanendra and the abolition of a 240-year-old monarchy, something that now looks certain following the Maoists' stunning show at the ballot box.

Of the 601 seats in a new Constituent Assembly, 240 are appointed on a first-past-the-post system, and it is those results that are currently being tallied.

Another 335 assembly members will be elected by proportional representation – a counting method the Maoists are also expected to do well in. It could be several weeks before the full results for those seats are known.

The final 26 seats will be appointed by an interim government to be formed after the polls, in which the Maoists will also be well represented.