Neville Ackland's Amaroo Protest - September 2002
During the September, 2002, event at Amaroo, former follower of Maharaji, Neville Ackland, staged a one man protest outside the gates of Amaroo. Along with John Macgregor's Good Weekend article, the protest generated some media interest, samples of which can be found here. In spite of having an apportunity to explain his message to a wider audience, Maharaji declined various offers to be interviewed by the press.
Although Neville uses the term Ex-premie.org, he is not part of any official organisation of ex-premies, and does not represent this website in any official way. However, the webmaster of this site fully supports his protest.
Neville's accounts below, first appeared on the ex-premie Forum 7.
What an amazing day! Never have I been so confronted and never have I been so confronting. It was more confronting, and I was more confronting, than I had ever imagined.
The day began getting my 14-year-old boy off to school. The furniture truck was ready to go, covered in protest signs that I hope you will see on the forum within the next 24 hours. John MacGregor was the photographer and I did all the posing. John and I spent an exciting and fruitful Monday evening and I learnt a lot. Heaps more scandalous and disturbing information - for another time.
I arrived at the intersection of Mt Flinders Rd and the Ipswich-Boonah Rd at 8.30 am feeling great. There were three cameramen and two reporters waiting for me. They were soon to be joined by several others, one freelance, all the newspapers and one television channel. Other networks will come on board possibly tomorrow. The morning was spent being interviewed and filmed, in many poses with many signs. The signs that adorned the truck, as you will see, were about as provocative as you could get. I had made my intentions clear from the beginning - I want Maharaji to be brought to some sort of justice, to be held accountable in some way. I feel a bit like David facing up to Goliath. My slingshot is the truth, and if he believes my accusations are false let him prove it in court. So, I deliberately affront him and make no excuses for myself. One thing Goliath proved is that he was a big target; you had to be a lousy shot to miss. And of course, the bigger they are the harder they fall.
Whilst the cameras rolled, I stood on the roof of the truck holding my giant signs and swapping them around occasionally. Luckily it wasn't a windy day! Hundreds of cars came by, countless dozens turned into Mt Flinders Rd. The neighbour living across the road began cheering, later the man came across and congratulated me and then spoke to the reporters. In the midst of all of this, three local farmers stopped - all said that it was about time. I learnt something really important, these people aren't a bunch of disgruntled redneck locals who don't want progress and would complain about any development at Ivory's Rock. It goes far deeper than that.
Ivory's Rock was a sacred site to the native tribes that lived in the area. It's the dominating physical feature and it's an icon. When white settlers first moved to the area they immediately recognized its significance. No matter who owned the place, for over 100 years local people have felt that they could always go there, and go there they did. It attracted people like a magnet. It's got an energy about it. Some locals use the word 'heritage' when talking about it. Whatever way you say it, whether you're a cattleman or a bushwalker, Ivory's Rock and Mt Flinders have a special place in the lives of those who live nearby.
When the Ivory's Rock land was purchased by Maharaji back in '91 (I was there) and it was announced that there was to be a convention centre built, local people asked I.R.C.C. management if free access would continue to be available to this special place. They were told in no uncertain terms yes, but over the years, as Maharaji became more paranoid, the presence of boom gates, security guards and controlled visits in tour buses didn't exactly turn the locals on. They slowly realized that a cult had taken over their 'sacred site'. It wasn't just a paddock down the road. As the darker side of the cult revealed itself to the local people, for instance, smiling whilst lying, saying one thing and meaning another, denying the obvious, they felt betrayed. This is an important thing for everyone to understand. It's almost as if the locals feel a dark force has taken control of their special place, and some of them are reminded every time they drive past.
Back to the protest: some people who were turning into Mt Flinders Rd were so shocked, especially when they read my FOOT KISSING RITUALS THIS WAY sign, that they almost missed the corner and had an accident. I actually became concerned and thought I'd better stop, but by now it was time to go anyway as all the reporters were waiting three kilometres down the roads at the main gate.
I approached the first roadblock with horn blowing, hazard lights flashing, making the black power salute. A very agitated parking attendant demanded I stop. The cameras were rolling, the tape recorders were turning, from both within the cab of the truck and from outside. When asked to stop I said: "No way, I'm going to the front gate and you can't stop me." Amidst a throng of people, I moved the truck slowly towards the front gate and was directed to park under the big gum tree as around 500 premies streamed across the road. I grabbed my biggest sign daring Maharaji to face me. I began calling out to Maharaji to come out and face his accusers. I said I had a petition from ex-followers. I dared him to take me to court over my allegations and claimed that if he didn't face me he would be judged guilty as charged by Australian society.
I didn't need to use my megaphone; the energy behind my voice was enough. My old buddy Nils Couran (hope I've got the spelling right, it's been a long time) was a senior observer. I approached him immediately after making my speech and putting my sign away. I wanted to say "nothing personal' - the words fell on deaf ears. He said I made it personal when I called to him in front of reporters. Possibly I embarrassed him, sometimes I can be a bit of a smartarse. If so, my apologies Nils, I know you're reading this (he told me he is a regular visitor to the forum). Like the fool I am, I found myself appealing to him or at least to a part of him surrendered many years ago. In a moment I realized it was no use. When it came to Maharaji, for Nils, the lights were on but nobody was home…scary… but more scary is yet to come.
By this time I was hungry and I had made my announcement so I packed up, waved bye bye to everyone…horn blowing, hazard lights flashing, making the black power salute… Several parking attendants sitting a hundred metres away returned the salute. I drove to the Peak Crossing store flashing my lights at oncoming traffic feeling invincible. When Aires people feel invincible, from my experience they usually fall on their face. So let's say I was wary…and invincible. Lo and behold, at the store, I was amazed to find the old gentleman, whatever his name is, and his offsider, whatever her name is! The ones that conned me at the April demonstration and the ones that tried to con Jim at the Vancouver program. "I've got a bone to pick with you," I said. I amused and/or confused their befuddled brains for a short time and then told them to go and tell their boss that I was going to Ipswich to drive up and down the main street blowing my horn and using the megaphone, and off I went.
As I approached my destination, my mobile phone rang - it had been ringing all day. It was Channel 7 again, that distractingly attractive reporter who I'd invited to go to dinner at 'Fine Dining'. She wanted to know if I could supply a videotape of Maharaji. I didn't have my hearing aid in, I realized I was twice her age, and dejected, I pulled over to the side of the road and turned the motor off. As we were speaking a face appeared at the window, an extremely angry face, belonging to, you guessed it, a premie. Before I knew it the truck door was open, the phone was knocked from my ear and he was reaching for the ignition keys. Losing the plot momentarily I yelled down the phone "I'm being attacked, ring 000!" "Where are you," she said - I didn't know! I abandoned that plan immediately. "What's this - what's this!" the angry premie said pointing to the signs on the truck. I knew a long explanation was not in order. "Calm down," I said. "When I see you next you're dead," he said and stormed back to his car. The fact that I was speaking to a reporter describing exactly what was happening didn't help his cause. I got his licence number and the Channel 7 reporter wrote it down. Ah, these reporters have an exciting life.
I spent the next two and a half hours at the Ipswich police station filing a report. The police officer was very helpful and checked my story with the Channel 7 reporter. I want to make it clear that I reported the matter for my own protection. I believe the threat this premie made was made in the heat of the moment and in a way I feel uncomfortable that he may get into trouble. After all, he was only protecting his master and overwhelmed by vulnerability. Dangerous nevertheless.
So that was my day, Day 1. Since I arrived home this evening the phone has run hot - no exaggeration. My old buddy Michael rang from Sydney to say Channel 7 had just interviewed him - we're going national. A local rang to say he was writing a letter to the editor of the Queensland Times and the Courier Mail. He said others were doing the same thing. It's going to be a late night and an early start. I must say that when I arrive at Ivory's Rock tomorrow morning, the type of exhilaration I felt this morning will still be there but it will be mixed with sadness because in confronting Maharaji in the only way I know how (and do best) I'm confronting premies, many of whom are not ready to be confronted. Who wants feel as if they are causing others pain, even if indirectly? But in reality I'm still just the messenger - it's the message that causes the pain. Don't shoot the messenger guys.
Love and respect to all the premies…especially the pretty girls.
More news and photos tomorrow evening.
Didn't get to post this last night, so here's Round 2 and 3. No cheating to see what happens now!!!
Wednesday 4 September
SHOCK, HORROR - what have I done? Will what I have started trigger a chain of events culminating in the humiliating exposure of M (and by association I.R.C.C. and EV) and his inevitable retreat…retirement perhaps…whilst awaiting the enquiries of the Taxation Department and other unsuspected bombshells yet to be revealed.
This evening's Channel 7 program 'Today tonight' was devastating for M and a victory for every ex-premie that has ever been. The program covered as much as anyone could expect considering all the limitations of commercial TV. The reporter and producer Karen Tan did a great job: aerial shots of the camp ground, footage of M speaking, a brief interview with Michael McClure in Sydney…some nice lines there Michael…an interview with a cult expert verifying M's status and unsavoury nature. The cult expert mentioned problems associated with exposing cult leaders and bringing them to justice.
The program exposed M pretty much to be the way he is. Of course there were many, many issues that this 7 or 8 minutes didn't address, but it was surprisingly accurate. M came across as a secretive cult leader refusing interviews. No I.R.C.C. or EV rep will speak to the press. Total silence! No comment! What are the press and the public going to believe? They'll think this guy has got something to hide, that he's afraid to face the accusations and that he is probably guilty of everything; a rip off merchant, that was the impression I got from the program.
O yes, I almost forgot, guess who hogged the limelight - you're right! The little Aussie battler fighting for justice. That's right folks…me.
I was amazing in my role because it was made for me and because the kind editor cut out all the bits where I talked too fast to be understood. My props also helped me look better than I am and there were fantastic shots of the truck, and signs, with me on the roof yelling at M to come out. The confrontation at the main gate, totally unrehearsed, was spectacularly successful.
Lots of good, concise comments (edited out of non-stop, sometimes overpowering, avalanches of information that came tumbling out of my mouth) coming from I know not where, each word an act of faith, a powerful tool - it was great. I thought I was sometimes, when the script allowed, quite scary actually. I thought…shit! I'm glad I'm on my side! Especially when that spunky reporter asked me if I'd be back to morrow and I replied that not only would I be back tomorrow but I would be back the next time M was in town. Anyway, I don't expect any academy awards from the premies when they find out about the Channel 7 expose. Most of them will have missed it unless they have a TV in their tent. I bet M has one of those expensive surround sound flat screen monsters - I wonder who got to see it live, and who will get a tape. I've already got my copy.
Highlights from Round 2, Day 2
My son Jarrah and our dog Chester came along for the day and were a wonderful support team. Jarrah held high the FOOT KISSING RITUAL THIS WAY sign. We had a rude finger counting competition: he got 13 and I got 7, plus a dozen of so calls of "Get a life!" At lunchtime we moved down the road to cruise the campsite and eating area - no roadblocks, friendly police. We waved tentatively at solemn, shocked, confronted faces and worried smiles. I was the bringer of bad tidings that for some might lead down the road to freedom and become the good news. But for many…who knows? I may always be, for them, the man that wrecked their dream. I had better get some Sandalwood oil to ward off psychic attack.
Jarrah, Chester and I then drove into Ipswich and cruised around. We tied to get stuck at the lights and park next to busy intersections. We pulled the plug at about 4.00 pm and drove home through Boonah and Mt Alford, attracting attention.
ROUND 3: M KNOCKED TO THE CANVAS, DENIES IT AND BLAMES SOMEONE ELSE!
Thursday 5 September
Sitting in the warm sun, in the cab of my protest vehicle with my feet up and writing to all my friends at ex-premies.org and feeling great!
Because of the Channel 7 program last night there were gestures of support as I drove through local towns this morning. People flashing their lights, blowing horns and giving me the thumbs up - very helpful. I added their energy to my own. By the time I got here I'd collected lots, and considered scaling the power pole opposite to attach a sign. Luckily I calmed myself down and spent an hour sprucing up the signs. The SCANDAL AT I.R.C.C. sign on the front is now a much brighter red and beneath the windscreen a new one reads: WWW.EX-PREMIE.ORG DARES MAHARAJI FACE THE ACCUSATIONS.
Had a long chat with Derek Harper who approached me this morning. He explained to me that my protest was in vain because M didn't care what anybody thought about him. Pushed a little, he agreed that M didn't care what the media, the neighbours the public or the ex-premies thought. Not caring what anyone thinks as far as I'm concerned is not caring what anyone feels. The point was lost on Derek.
Just got back to the base camp after four runs to ground zero. I only planned one but had some much fun I did it all again. Stopped at the pedestrian crossing, over a dozen premies would read the signs at a time. Many more didn't. Lots looked away, heads down, eyes averted. I bumped the horn button ever so slightly (for fear of being arrested for disturbing the peace) but there was no response. "Nice day for it," I said as I waited for an old acquaintance to cross the road, Cheeky, huh? The security guys are cool and despite their lack of info are on side. Some saw the Channel 7 program and now have handbills and website details.
Contract staff are also expressing appreciation for what I'm doing here. Two guys just stopped to offer their congratulations. They work in catering. They told me M arrived in a helicopter with 8 armed security guards, Elan Vital personnel. I asked the guys 3 times to confirm their claim. According to them its gospel. Many contracted staff see and hear a lot more than premies realise. Suspicious from the beginning, they notice things and gossip (more about this later).
Just as I was writing this, an Indian man pulled up. He said he was in a bit of a crisis and wanted to hear what M had to say. Of course he wasn't let in. He was dismayed because in India spiritual teachers welcome people in from the streets to listen to them. Whilst we were talking a dude from EV pulled up and took several photos. The Indian man became alarmed and, as the honcho strode back to his car, called for him to stop. He didn't. Perhaps the cult thought the visitor was a plant. Who knows? Moments later, another vehicle pulls up. It's a neighbour I've never met before. He pulls out $100.00 and stuffs it in my shirt. Yes, he can confirm the armed security guards. Yes, he has seen a sub-machine gun in the hands of a premie - close up…just hunting rabbits…? He confirmed M is trying to buy land around him. He owns the paddocks on both sides of the road, just before you get to the I.R.C.C. main entrance and offered to accommodate protest signs in 9 different languages (he speaks 12 languages), after all it is an international conference centre.
Help! This security guard just pulled up in a cloud of dust and leans out his window waving leaflets that say, "Jesus loves you." "Truth to you mate," he said and drove off spinning the wheels. Will I ever get this letter finished?
So far today I've only had 4 rude fingers. The premies are really quite polite. What a buzz when my old mate Derek came for a chat. He came close to begging me not to mention it on ex-premie - all I could say was that he should have thought about it before he stuck his neck out. I promised I wouldn't say anything bad about him so I won't. By the way he swore he wasn't, and isn't, Catweasel. What a case study you would make for my psychology assignments. Derek, how about it? Could we do some interviews - do you think I'm kidding?
My God! The school bus just went past, and stopped… so all the kids could see the signs and, O no, the kids are cheering! This is all too much. As I am writing this there are twenty heads out the windows yelling, "We live just down the road!"… and here comes a huge gravel truck, air horns blaring - love those air horns! I'm off to ground zero - see you soon…
Back again…I missed the crowd but will make up for it tomorrow. I plan to be in the thick of it all day. It took one and a half hours to get home owing to the locals clustering around the truck and asking questions and offering support.
That's all for now. I'm sure everyone enjoyed the photographs - more to come as soon as we can find time. Unfortunately, I lost my camera on the first day when the reporters jumped into the cab - it must have fallen out. A neighbour has taken a few, but they won't be available for a week or so.
Wow, what a day! On days like today I search the limits of my consciousness and the little wisdom I've gained from life's experiences to try …strain to understand more deeply the human dilemma. Never have I been so acutely aware of my limitations.
For three days I've been concentrating on public awareness rather than premie awareness. Many hours have been spent at the highway intersection and the small towns and Ipswich. People wave wherever I go. Although I must admit, most stare in disbelief. Needless to say, they read the signs. I had to get a tail light globe in Boonah this morning and called in at the auto electricians. Everyone downed tools and came out for a look. Yes, they had seen it on TV. His wife had looked up the ex-premie website. By the time the globe was replaced, 10 people stopped to read the signs. They were interested, concerned, and thought I was mad. Amongst the local Christians there is a downright resentment towards M, EV and I.R.C.C. - the local community will play a big part in M's downfall. Looks like we'll formalise things a bit. Maybe start a concerned citizens group to lobby more effectively. We may all throw some money in a hat and buy a protest vehicle, or borrow a farmers truck, get together, make signs, cover the truck and I'LL DRIVE THE BLOODY THING THROUGHT THE STREETS OF EVERY TOWN FROM HERE TO TOOWOOMBA TO BRISBANE AND BACK, informing the public of what's happening, until the master of deception is banished.
Before long, the road leading to Amaroo will be lined with signs demanding a federal government enquiry into M and his organisation. Locals with some clout are writing to the appropriate authorities. This is not a rumour.
Back to the battlefield!!! (I know it's a terrible terminology but after all I'm an Aries). Really the only one I'm ever battling is myself. 'M' represents an aspect of my psyche that I need to understand - if I'm ever to understand myself. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to grow a little…OK OK I'll cut the crap and get on with it.
Arrived about 10am and drove straight up to the front gate, security guards were so helpful I felt a little guilty; God knows about what? The cops were great, I got to know three sergeants throughout the day, had lunch in the shade of the truck and talked cults. Such fun! I kept the breaks to a minimum and got to work cruising back and forth constantly stopping at the crossover, about forty times. You can see right into the pavilion area where everyone eats, there were thousands of perfectly normal Premies milling about, crossing the road and sitting outside their tents in the glorious spring sunshine…heavenly! Then along comes Neville…today I've seen two thousand smiling faces disappear as I intrude, almost stopping, leaning out the drivers window (displaying my latest tattoo, the Chinese symbol for human rights…people with tattoos do that sort of thing). I make jokes with the traffic attendant at the crossover about all the good-looking women. "Am I that ugly?" I say to him as astonished premies wait to cross. "I swear I've tried to attract the attention of every eligible looking lady for the past five hours and none! none of them will look at me!!" The guard doubled up laughing. I must confess I said exactly the same thing to all three traffic attendants. And they all cracked up.
I saw lots of my old friends, some sad moments, embarrassment, not mine. I felt compassion towards the premies although this quickly disappeared when they began to defy logic and defend 'M'. "How would you feel if he was fucking your girlfriend I said to one lady." "Krishna had his gopies," she replied. You can't win!
As I was cruising up near the camp grounds I was hailed by a premie who said, "You are a dead man, I've got a bullet with your name on it". He didn't look too scary to me. He took a step back, clenched his fists and challenged me to get out of the truck. I wasn't very impressed - I just kept cruising.
At about 3.30 all the premies disappeared to the ampitheatre. I went to the local store, talked cults and the owner bought me lunch. I returned to the Rock at about 4.30 to set up camp at the gate and await the exodus of the faithful. I sat around with police and security guards listening to 'M's talk on the car radio. More about this later.
At six o'clock what seemed to me to be thousands and thousands of premies streamed down the hill to be greeted by me sitting cross-legged on the roof of my truck meditating, but they distracted me and I ended up giving up. You know what it's like. So I held high my original little sign from the April protest "MAHARAJI, I GAVE YOU MY HEART, YOU BROKE IT AND DIDN'T CARE". Of all the signs in my collection it was the most personal one. For the fifteen or twenty minutes it took for the premies to file past my truck there was an eerie silence. Hardly anyone said anything.
Thanks so much to Cynthia (ELK droppings) and others for those postings and similar things. As my neighbour said as he drove away "keep up the pressure".
That's all from me. Have to be up early.