Random Analytica

Random thoughts, charts, infographics & analysis. Not in that order

Category: Mefloquine

Mefloquine Dispatches: An Index

Stories linked to my experiences after having taken mefloquine as part of my military service.

  1. Mefloquine Dispatches: My Request to Darren Chester (Final)
  2. Mefloquine Dispatches: My Daughter, 2016 (Final)
  3. Mefloquine Dispatches: Raven, 1990s (Final)
  4. Mefloquine Dispatches: Harley Quinn, 1997
  5. Mefloquine Dispatches: @NAB, 20th March 2019
  6. Mefloquine Dispatches: @WHO, 8th August 1989
  7. Mefloquine Dispatches: Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos, 11th March 2006
  8. Mefloquine Dispatches: Dr Pepper 2.2. 2011 & 1992
  9. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Joker, 1997 & 2019
  10. Mefloquine Dispatches: Acceptance, October-2019
  11. Mefloquine Dispatches: Full Bloom, 2012
  12. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Claremont Serial Killings, April 1997
  13. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Commonwealth Department of Veterans Affairs, 2000
  14. Mefloquine Dispatches: SGADF, 26th September 2019
  15. Mefloquine Dispatches: Suicide Prevention, early 1990
  16. Mefloquine Dispatches: Caravaggio, October 2012
  17. Mefloquine Dispatches: FOI, 21st November 2019
  18. Mefloquine Dispatches: Royal Commission, 2020
  19. Mefloquine Dispatches: Lord Dannatt, 28th November 2019
  20. Mefloquine Dispatches: 1800 MEFLOQUINE, 10th May 2019
  21. Mefloquine Dispatches: Mindfulness, 5th December 2019
  22. Mefloquine Dispatches: Mil Mi-24, 27th March 1997
  23. Mefloquine Dispatches: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, 28th February 2020
  24. Mefloquine Dispatches: Sausage rolls and the Red Cross, 1st July 1997
  25. Mefloquine Dispatches: Mefloquine Dispatches: BUPA, 17th June 2021
  26. Mefloquine Dispatches: LBMC, 28th April 1997
  27. Mefloquine Dispatches: McKinsey & Company, 19th October 2021
  28. Mefloquine Dispatches: 3573 – Lambie, Senator Jacqui, 23rd April 2021
  29. Mefloquine Dispatches: Patricia Fernandez de Viana, 10th December 2021
  30. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Sandline Affair, 21st March 1997
  31. Mefloquine Dispatches: Vanuatu, October 1996
  32. Mefloquine Dispatches: My Letter to Matt Keogh, 4th June 2022
  33. Mefloquine Dispatches: Jim Molan, 11th March 2002
  34. REDACTED/DVSRC – Mefloquine Dispatches: Other Suicides, April-1997 (Part One)
  35. Not published
  36. Not published
  37. Mefloquine Dispatches: Lieutenant General John Caligari, 22nd June 2022
  38. Mefloquine Dispatches: Protected Information & Confidentiality @DVSRC, 27th June 2022
  39. Mefloquine Dispatches: Anti-Malarial Medications Health Assessment Program, 15th March 2019
  40. Mefloquine Dispatches: Accessing Superannuation, 17th April – 3rd May 2019
  41. Mefloquine Dispatches: FOI – The Last Signalman (9th Sep 2022)
  42. Mefloquine Dispatches: FOI – One Document (1st Oct 2022)
  43. Not published
  44. Not published
  45. Not published
  46. Not published
  47. Mefloquine Dispatches: Dun & Bradstreet (28th September 2004)
  48. Mefloquine Dispatches: Homelessness (21st November 2022)

23. Mefloquine Dispatches: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, 28th February 2020

In correspondence to the Australian Senate in November 2019 I requested answers to the following questions:

  • I would like to know the status of the comprehensive health assessments announced by the minister on 15 March 2019;
  • I would like all the personnel involved in Operation BARITONE to receive a comprehensive health assessment and you would like to receive a response from the minister to this request;
  • I would like the committee to investigate the status of the Mefloquine help line;

The Committee replied on the 28th February 2020:

22. Mefloquine Dispatches: Mil Mi-24, 2016

Using 1998/99 cabinet papers Andrew Probyn from the Australian Broadcasting Commission has put together this piece on the fate of the Russian gunships owned by the Sandline mercenaries at the heart of the ‘Sandline Affair’. Secrets of how Russian attack helicopters came to Australia revealed 20 years later. Extract:

The $50 million deal, signed in January 1997 to the horror of the then Howard government, would have seen foreign mercenaries flown in to destroy the Bougainville rebellion, using second-hand military equipment.

But two months later, on March 27, 1997, Australia agreed to a request from the PNG government to accept custody of the gear bought by PNG from Sandline.

“The PNG government was concerned about the delivery of the equipment to PNG in the uncertain political circumstance that prevailed at the time,” then defence minister John Moore wrote in his confidential cabinet submission.

At the time of the controversial purchase the PNG armed forces had a helicopter fleet consisting of five Bell UH-1 Iroquois of which only one was serviceable. At the time of the ‘Sandline Affair’ they had cannibalised the other ‘Hueys’ to empty shells.

The Australian Government then agreed to take the Russian helicopters (2x Mil Mi-24 and 2x Mi-8 transports) on the 27th of March 1997 as the PNG Parliament began to sort out the mess after Prime Minister Chan cut and run. There was also a cache of other fixed wing aircraft that Sandline had purchased, and the PNG government kept but were never used in combat.

What happened to the two Mil Mi-24 helicopters? 19-years later they were quietly buried in a Darwin dump (apparently riddled with asbestos). Via the ABC. Russian-built Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters buried in Darwin dump. Extract:

It is an unlikely setting for the final chapter of an international diplomatic scandal, but Darwin’s waste dump holds an extraordinary secret beneath the surface.

“A few years ago, we had a couple of shipping containers turn up here that were required to be buried,” Nik Kleine, the City of Darwin’s executive manager of waste and capital works, said.

The containers had arrived from the Royal Australian Air Force base at Tindal, near Katherine. “We were alerted that [there] were aircraft in those containers,” Mr Kleine said. Until now, the specific details of the aircraft remained a mystery outside the Defence community.

But the Defence Department has confirmed to the ABC the aircraft buried in the hazardous waste section of the tip in 2016 were two Russian-made military attack helicopters.

The Mi-24 Hind gunships had been part of a saga known as the Sandline Affair, which made international headlines in the late 1990s.

Picture: ADF Serials Message Board

21. Mefloquine Dispatches: Mindfulness, 5th December 2019

We sit across from each other. A small coffee table and my phone separate us. My psychologist will be helping me make this difficult call. I have spent the best part of a year working towards this point. I’m emotionally attached.

Today we are using a combination of mindfulness and a safe place to ensure I stay calm. We reinforce my safe space with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

I make the call.

The conversation takes approximately 10-minutes. For me I am relating an incident that occurred almost 23-years ago. Yet it feels like it was just months previously. That’s just the amnesia. I go through the details of the incident. I get an acknowledgement and a contact person to reach out to.

We finalise the call and move over to the coffee machine so I can regather.

The emotion and the adrenaline have started to kick in. My jaw tightens. As does my chest. My voice wavers. My hands start to shake. My psychologist picks up on this straight away. He wants to bring me back down immediately.

We return to our chairs.

“I’ve got this” I say.

I close my eyes. I control my breathing which has a ragged edge to it. I imagine my safe place. I focus entirely on my breathing.

I take an initial deep breath.

I focus on my safe place again.  I can’t share it with anyone. It is mine alone.

A second deep breath.

Safe place.

A third deeper breath.

I open my eyes.

I look at my psychologist. I grin. My jaw has relaxed. My shaking has disappeared. My breathing has normalised.

It took less than a minute. Rather than kick-off I am calm. We are both impressed by my progress. Only months before I was hospitalised.

In the coming months and years there will be more difficult phone calls. Difficult situations. Chance encounters which I cannot control. There might even be a Royal Commission.

Practicing mindfulness is not only helping me cope with old trauma and new memories it is allowing me to operate in the real world.

One breath at a time.

 

 

If you need help…

Thank you for your interest. More Mefloquine Dispatches can be found here.

20. Mefloquine Dispatches: 1800 MEFLOQUINE, 10th May 2019

I am at the RSL sub-branch. We sit in the small office, my Advocate and I awaiting our coffees from the café next door. We chat about things that are going on in our lives. It is one of our little rituals.

The coffees arrive.

L* (my Advocate) thinks we should ring the 1800-Mefloquine number today before we put in any paperwork. Mefloquine, unlike other defence related injuries has its own helpline.

I don’t handle calls to the DVA very well but L* is there to do the talking so I agree.

We call 1800-MEFLOQUINE.

The young lady who answers the phone is professional, personable, helpful but doesn’t know anything about mefloquine.

L* asks if we have a claim that is mefloquine related is there a fast-track process and is there someone available to talk us through it.

We are told that the 1800-MEFLOQUINE number is now going through to the main contact line and there are no specialists available to talk to. It seems the call-line is about to be archived due to a lack of need.

Another frustration. L* and I put some of the paperwork through anyway. Hopefully we can get it in time to be amongst the Veterans receiving the anti-malarial health checks which we are told by the Minister will be available in July.

Several frustrating months later I am happy to report that the 1800-MEFLOQUINE number is back up and running. Also there is another commitment to the anti-malarial health checks.

Not in July 2019 as promised.

Sometime in 2020.

That aside, we are starting to make some progress. I’ll be ringing 1800-MEFLOQUINE this Thursday with a witness to formally report mefloquine exposure on Operation BARITONE.

Let’s see how they go the second time around.

19. Mefloquine Dispatches: Lord Dannatt, 28th November 2019

Over the weekend I come across a story from Britain.

Lord Dannatt, who was chief of the general staff in the UK between 2006 and 2009, warns of a suicide epidemic amongst veterans during a visit to the Portsmouth-based military support group Forgotten Veterans UK.

During his visit he talks about the cost effectiveness of the work being undertaken by the charity as well as  how the government of the day and charities should be doing more. Via The News. Former British Army boss brands UK’s veteran suicide crisis the ‘epidemic of our time’. Excerpt:

Britain’s veteran suicide crisis has been branded part of the ‘epidemic of our time’ by the former head of the British Army, who admitted more needs to be done to stop traumatised troops from killing themselves.

General Lord Richard Dannatt admitted he was appalled by the number of people taking their lives in the UK and described the situation as a ‘tragedy’.

Lord Dannatt has come up on my radar previously. Not because he took mefloquine but because he refused it on health grounds. Via The Guardian. Ex-army chief apologises to troops over anti-malaria drug. Excerpt:

Lord Dannatt, who was chief of the general staff between 2006 and 2009, told BBC2’s Victoria Derbyshire programme he would not take the drug because of his son’s experience with it.

Dannatt said his son Bertie had suffered mental health problems after taking two doses of Lariam before visiting Africa in the late 1990s. He was not in the armed forces at the time but had been prescribed the drug by his father’s army doctor.

He is currently the highest ranking officer on record to refuse mefloquine. Mefloquine is a drug that is known to increase the chance of suicide amongst veterans.

Oh, the hypocrisy of old Generals.

191128_Image_LDannatt

Picture: Habibur Rahman (via The News)

 

If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

 

18. Mefloquine Dispatches: Royal Commission, 2020

If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

17. Mefloquine Dispatches: FOI, 21st November 2019

When I put in my first FOI in early 2019 the response was to refuse my request and to shit-post me.

By November 2019, I have been in a constant battle with Defence Archives for months seeking information concerning Operation BARITONE. All via the Freedom of Information (FOI) mechanisms.

I was given a hard NO on the 21st of November 2019. See appended:

Then a week later Defence Archives confirmed the news stating that files had been recovered. Some had been destroyed. The files still existing would not be released. A harder NO.

I proved the mefloquine exposure via Red Cross records which were 20-years old. AHQ destroyed the documents relating to the exposure.

What is worse. When I proved it all, they still decided to shut me down. Because they don’t give a shit about Diggers.

Make of that what you will…

16. Mefloquine Dispatches: Caravaggio, October 2012

It is 2012.

I am starting to get noticeably sick but I don’t know what from. Not all the physical symptoms have arrived. My tinnitus was always present but mild. I put the vertigo down to heat, bad ankles or alcohol. My teeth and gums are still good. My face hasn’t gone red as yet. The fine tremor in my hands hasn’t started. I could develop epilepsy. A former CO tells me I might have brain damage. All in my future.

In 2012 the black dog never goes away. It has been with me for a decade or more. It was accepted by the Army although they blame me for its occurrence. Over the years my family has become inured to its silent damage. My marriage hasn’t collapsed but the writing is on the wall.

I am watching the new Simon Schama series the Power of Art. We get to the episode dedicated to the life and works of Michelangelo Merisi di Caravaggio.

I don’t know the first thing about Caravaggio. Some people are turned away from him. He is unstable yet he has a power to turn art into majesty. He pioneers the art form of chiaroscuro, the contrast of light and shadow. He is constantly in trouble. He drinks too much, prefers to sleep in cheap rooms and hang out with his cronies, who are little more than local bully-boys.

His art reeks of the dirt, sweat and blood of everyday life. In Young Sick Bacchus he makes God human. The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew is portrayed as the brutal murder it would have been. The victim lying on the floor on the cusp of shadows, his assailant highlighted with blade in hand ready to finish the killing. It’s all too real for the Catholic Church.

Caravaggio kills a man in 1606 in a duel but it is actually little more than a cold blooded murder. He is exiled and tries to paint his way out of trouble. In a cruel twist of fate he is pardoned but imprisoned on his way home. He gets out of his prison but misses his boat. He dies walking back to Rome with the painting of David with the Head of Goliath. It is a gift for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the Prince of the Catholic Church who has pardoned him.

I am captured by this painting. Caravaggio is Goliath. He has painted himself as a villain. The young David is surrounded by light. I finally get art because I see an artist I understand. I totally get Caravaggio. It helps explain what is going wrong in my head.

Caravaggio’s descent into madness mirrors my own. I only wish I was so talented, yet I feel like Goliath in his painting.

As Simon Schama noted in his documentary:

In Caravaggio’s time it was believed that artists were given their talent by God to bring beauty to the world and to put mortal creatures in touch with their higher selves or souls. Caravaggio never did anything the way it was supposed to be done.

In this painting of the victory of virtue over evil it’s supposed to be David who is the centre of attention, but have you ever seen a less jubilant victory? On his sword is inscribed “Humilitus Occideit Superbium”, that is, humility conquers pride. This is the battle that has been fought out inside Caravaggio’s head between the two sides of the painter that are portrayed here.

For me the power of Caravaggio’s art is the power of truth, not least about ourselves. If we are ever to hope for redemption we have to begin with the recognition that in all of us the Goliath competes with the David.”

1210_DavidWithTheHeadOfGoliath

Image: David with the Head of Goliath (1601)

 

15. Mefloquine Dispatches: Suicide Prevention, early 1990

If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.