Neville Ackland's Amaroo Protest - September 2002
John Macgregor reports on Neville Ackland's
protest against Prem Rawat, a.k.a. Maharaji,
at the gates of Amaroo.
On 21st April, 2002, John MacGregor reported on the ex-premie forum that a lone protester had been seen holding a sign outside the gates of Amaroo. On 22nd April, John posted the following on the forum, confirming the protester's identity, and telling the full story.
As suspected, the mystery man at the gate of Amaroo yesterday with the protest sign was local resident, DLM founder, former Australian WPC Chief, environmental activist, and ex-premie Neville Ackland.
Neville rang me tonight with details of his exploit - which, quite naturally, he found rather challenging inasmuch as he did it all alone in a sea of nearly 3000 premies.
Neville's large sign read:
MAHARAJI: I GAVE YOU MY HEART. YOU BROKE IT AND DIDN'T CARE.
From time to time he would flip it over to reveal the other side, which read:
MAHARAJI: MASTER OF DECEIT, LIAR, COWARD AND FOOL. I DARE YOU TO FACE ME, IN OR OUT OF COURT.
Neville's strategy, he said, was to get Maharaji to sue him for defamation, whereupon he would be able to air his and other ex-premies' grievances in an open courtroom.
Neville appeared with his sign at Amaroo's front gate at 3 pm. yesterday (Sunday). First up, he reported to the police stationed at the gate, and conferred with them on what their rules were, so he could avoid breaking the law. He spent the best part of an hour showing a policeman copious materials he had printed off the EPO website. 'The policeman's eyes,' he said, 'nearly popped out of his head.'
As all the premies at this time were inside the site, making their way to the program, he then went over to a born-again Christian parking attendant, who was reading his Bible under a gum tree, and shared his views and the EPO materials with him as well. Apparently the chap was highly supportive.
At 4 pm. a paid (outside) EV PR consultant drove up, having been alerted to Neville's presence, and began a discussion with him. Neville said the guy became (at least outwardly) very sympathetic after he explained his feelings.
Next on the scene was an elderly American gentleman with a ten-gallon hat. (This is where it gets a bit surreal.) The American, who was accompanied by a lady a few years younger, stated that he was not a premie, but had been personally invited to the event by Maharaji. It turned out that he had been one of Maharaji's flying instructors.
Then the paid staff began leaving the site in buses: Neville dutifully displayed his sign to them.
First to appear from the program itself was one of the attending exes I mentioned yesterday. S/he gave Neville a big hug, and told him the program was 'the same old shit', and they exchanged phone numbers and agreed to catch up.
Next, as hundreds - indeed more likely thousands - of premies began leaving the site (all thru the front gate) after the last program concluded at about dusk, Neville again displayed his sign prominently.
He naturally got catcalls - tho nothing too aggressive or obscene.
As this sea of often antagonistic people swarmed past Neville, the elderly gentleman came up with his lady and stood on either side of him, to express solidarity.
It turns out the old guy was himself active in the environmental movement in his home state, where he had sometimes been marginalized by the majority. 'I know what it's like to be lonely,' he said, as he observed Neville amidst an ocean of often hostile premies. He said repeatedly how much he admired what Neville was doing.
Fearing that someone might bother or threaten Neville, the old guy and his lady stood shoulder to shoulder with him the whole time - till the numbers began to dissipate.
During this lengthy period several things happened. Firstly, Neville talked ten-to-the-dozen to the couple about what he saw as Maharaji's misdemeanour. (No-one who knows Neville will be surprised to hear this: he is an excellent talker.) The PR consultant came over and took copious notes of the conversation.
By this time it was fairly dark, so the area was floodlit. The light near Neville was switched off, so the premies leaving the site couldn't read his sign. However this had the effect of drawing most people close so they could read it: it was assumed that this was an official EV sign conveying important information. So not many people missed the message.
The old guy, who knows Maharaji well, took photos of Neville and his sign, and promised he would give them to Maharaji.
Another cop came up and asked Neville if he intended to come back tomorrow. Neville had been forewarned by the first cop that this (for reasons that are beyond me) would be against the law - 'expressing an intention to obstruct lawful pedestrian traffic' or somesuch. Neville (truthfully) said no.
A gigantic and very annoyed premie appeared - Neville said he'd never seen anyone so large: nearly seven feet - and said: 'This is most inappropriate!' But he was pacified and sent on his way by the old American guy.
'The premies were terrified,' Neville reported. 'In that situation you realise that you do have a lot of power. It was a very liberating experience.'
Neville went home and celebrated the day with a bottle of champagne.
After unwinding a little, he rang an EV person who had given him her number at the gate, and had asked him to call her. He's forgotten her name for the moment - but said she has been a 'front row type' for many years.
The woman said that what he was doing was 'very bad karma'. Neville said not to worry: he was sure Maharaji would not get to know about the protest at the gate.
'Oh Maharaji knows,' the woman said. 'And he is not happy!!'
At 10.30 pm the phone rang: it was a very supportive EV person, Keith Brewster (Keith was in the Adelaide ashram with Neville and I in the 1970's) wanting to set up a meeting between Neville and some EV people next morning. Neville said Keith's friendly and supportive approach made him realise 'that premies could be good people'.
Neville said he wanted to talk to Maharaji personally. Keith said he didn't think that would be possible. So Neville suggested Valerio and Jan McGregor.
Valerio was the chap whom M sent to Australia in early 1998 to sort out the Amaroo Mutiny. At the end of the Mutiny, all the malefactors, including yours truly, had buckled under Valerio's influence, and admitted the error of their ways. All except Neville, who stood firm - loudly and publicly - with his objections to the way EV and Amaroo were run. He was of course marginalised permanently.
Anyway, next morning (i.e. this morning) at 9.30 Neville appeared as arranged at the Amaroo gate, and spent ten minutes telling the cop stationed there of Maharaji's failings.
He was then ushered into a meeting with Valerio and Jan McGregor - Keith was also present. (Jan is the former manager of Amaroo, and is now, if I'm not mistaken, working in the PR area.)
Neville began by telling Valerio: 'I was here to protest, and to challenge Maharaji to take me to court for defaming him. My beef is not with you, but with Maharaji, who spiritually violated me.'
Valerio replied: 'I can only talk to you about your problems with me - you did ask to see me. I don't have anything to do with these other issues.'
Neville responded: 'Well the "other issues" go to the core of my complaint. However, you did manipulate me in a meeting after the Amaroo Mutiny.' (This is when Neville's marginalisation was set in place.)
'Maharaji is not God's bootlace, and the fact is he led us to believe he was God. Just as I want [Australian Prime Minister] John Howard to apologise to generations of Aboriginals for what white culture has done to them, so I want Maharaji to apologise for the damage he has caused premies. The aspirants are still not told about what really goes on in Maharaji's world.
'And with the local community in this region you have dug your own grave. The heightened security and the chronic secrecy about this place have turned the whole area against you.
'My goal is to get Maharaji out of Amaroo, and then out of Australia, permanently.
'I regard this meeting as a ceasefire in a war. If we can't negotiate terms, I will continue with my campaign.'
They didn't negotiate terms. After 35 minutes Valerio had had enough, and began looking at his watch. The meeting concluded. Neville spent another 35 minutes on the way out conversing with yet another cop on the gate, and showing him all the stuff off EPO.
Neville is, as he expresses it, 'in the lion's mouth'. He lives near Amaroo - having moved there from another state in the mid-1990s to do service. He has not been a part of the exoduses of premies in Brisbane and northern NSW, having reached his conclusions about M and K by himself, through many years of close-hand observation and thru reading EPO. So he is very much alone out there in the bush.
It would be nice if exes here showed him a little support. He has no Internet connection right at the moment. However his phone number is 07 5463 5687 (or 61 7 5463 5687 from overseas). His postal address is:
Neville Ackland MS 461 Kalbar Queensland 4309 Australia
(He gave me permission to publish these.)
Particularly valuable would be printouts from EPO, and other materials that anyone has.
The ever-intrepid Neville wants a team to join him at the next event. He has a lovely property on the edge of a national park (I've stayed there often - it's a beautiful part of the world), with a huge caravan and plenty of extra sleeping accommodation, plus a campsite for tent-pitchers. (The place is set up professionally for groups of guests.)
Neville wants to conduct another 'legal and peaceful protest' at Amaroo. He suggests that exes from other parts of Australia and the world come and stay with him at event time. He envisages that, as well as doing the protest, people will have a holiday, and engage in constructive activities such as sign-making workshops.
His basic aim is to get Maharaji to listen to ex-premies' grievances and to respond.
As well as EPO materials and the like, I'm sure Neville would be open to friendly letters, phone calls and marriage proposals. He is good-looking, with an excellent physique from all the outdoor work he does on his farm, and his hobbies are… Oh look, maybe I'll leave that for another post.
22nd April, 2002