Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Islington Child Abuse Part Three

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday September 22 2016.

Colman's Column3

 

 

In previous articles I tried to address the conundrum of why the UK media are taking so little current interest in Jeremy Corbyn’s dereliction of duty during the Islington care homes saga. I worry at the question further in this article.

 

 

corbyn-1998

 

Derek Sawyer

 

 

sawyer

 

Derek Sawyer was a Labour Islington councillor until 2006 and was council leader at the time of the inquiries into allegations of sexual abuse of children in care homes in the borough. These allegations had been brought to light by social workers, particularly Liz Davies.  Dr Davies is now Emeritus Reader in Social Work at London Metropolitan University.  At one time, Sawyer served as Corbyn’s constituency agent. Sawyer was a friend from university days and business partner of Derek Slade, who received a 21-year prison sentence in 2010 for brutally abusing twelve boys at St George’s, a military boarding school, in Norfolk, which Sawyer helped him found. Slade wrote English language school text books, under the name “Dr Edward Marsh”, which were published by a company which he set up with Sawyer.

 

sawyercorbyn

 

Derek Slade

slade

In 1986, Slade was convicted of brutally beating a boy at a Sussex prep school. Sawyer provided the character evidence that kept Slade out of prison. Four days before the Ian White Report on sexual abuse in Islington care homes was published, Sawyer and Slade co-founded a company, IBEP, to set up schools and orphanages in India and Africa. Slade left them all under a cloud.  The Daily Mail published a story on this but dropped it from the paper’s website after a libel threat. However, Roger Cook was not sued when he did a BBC programme on it, Abuse of Trust.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylZrq4ClrZo

Abuse survivors at the Indian orphanage were planning to sue him in London’s High Court but the case was mysteriously dropped.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-19808336

Journalists have been careful not to accuse Sawyer of taking part in abuse or of knowing what Slade was up to.

Sawyer Today

Sawyer achieved key positions on bodies running London’s police, magistrates and probation services. He represented all London’s councils on the Metropolitan Police’s Public Safety Board. He was chair of the London Region Courts Board. He was made trustee of two crime prevention youth charities. He was recently community representative on Islington SNB (Safer Neighbourhood Board).

The difficulties of squeezing information from Islington council are described in detail here: https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/?s=Islington

Corbyn Was Told

 

No one is accusing Corbyn of perpetrating child abuse himself, but why did he do nothing? If he was such a good constituency MP, (I am a former civil servant who worked in many government departments and can vouch that he was an assiduous letter writer on behalf of his constituents), it beggars belief that he could have been unaware of the horrors that were going on in Islington on his watch.

 

https://spotlightonabuse.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/what-became-of-the-children-24-5-95/

 

In fact, we have the testimony of several people that Corbyn was informed of the horrors going on in his constituency. Five social workers visited him and journalist Eileen Fairweather contacted him separately. Some of the victims said that they told Corbyn what was going on and that he promised to do something but didn’t. At the time of the allegations, I was a ministerial advisor on child protection at the Department of Health and saw files which indicated that Corbyn had been told of the abuse.

 

Matthew Collings asked why the mainstream media were not covering Corbyn’s lack of action on the child abuse. I shared the most recent article I could find. It was published on 31 July 2015 and written by Guy Adams. It gave an excellent summary of the situation and allowed Liz Davies and Eileen Fairweather to state quite categorically that they had told Corbyn “everything” about the child abuse in 1992. Corbyn had said that he had heard similar things from constituents and promised to take action. Davies recalls, “There was no letter. No phone call. I never, ever saw him speak about it.”

 

Because the article was published in the Daily Mail, Corbyn supporters, some of whom proudly boasted that they had not actually read the Mail article or my article, aggressively and abusively asserted that it must be lies.

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3181783/Did-Jeremy-Corbyn-try-protect-fellow-Left-wingers-implicated-paedophile-scandal.html

 

These people were, in effect calling Liz Davies, Eileen Fairweather, former victim Demetrious Panton and myself liars for claiming that Corbyn had been told about the abuse and did nothing about it.

 

Just because You’re Paranoid…

 

I am not a fan of conspiracy theories. However, there are times when people really do conspire to cover up evil deeds. Particular areas which are prone to this are paedophile rings, military intelligence and Northern Ireland. All those ingredients are mixed up in this brew together with the peculiarities of Labour politics of the 1970s, which shaped the Corbyn we have today. Labour politics at that time allowed PIE (Paedophile Information Exchange, which advocated making sex with four-year-olds legal) to infiltrate the bien pensant community. It is difficult to avoid speculation when the perpetrators are indeed involved in a conspiracy to do horrible things and cover them up. It is unlikely that the establishment is protecting Corbyn himself. However, knowledge of what happened to Colin Wallace (who served six years in prison on a cooked-up manslaughter charge) may induce caution among journalists. I have been in communication with five different journalists who continue to take an interest in this issue. Let us see if they publish anything.

 

Brick Wall
I have heard speculation that Corbyn may have been stopped from pursuing the matter by people more powerful than himself. I have been told that attempts were made to get stories about the Islington abuse “into the mainstream press last year and earlier this but hit that curious Islington brick wall…. again.” Islington has had more coverage than some other scandals but little is being said about Corbyn’s role.

 

It is unlikely that the media will take up this story again if there are no new developments. There is not much to add to the Mail article.  Is there a sense of child abuse fatigue? All of the media right now is obsessed with Brexit, terrorism, and the migrant crisis. The Islington embarrassment began over 30 years ago. People felt guilty about letting Jimmy Savile get away with such horrors and then the authorities went too far in the other direction and seemed to be persecuting elderly national treasures. Many allegations turned out to be false.

There are so many worrying aspects to the Corbyn situation that the media has an uphill task covering them all. John Mann MP issued an open letter to Corbyn on July 23 2015, in which he said: “The extent of the abuse was only uncovered through the tenacity and bravery of whistle-blowers, journalists and survivors which led to a number of independent inquiries and the damning Ian White report in 1995”. The gist of John Mann’s argument is that Corbyn is not fit to lead the Labour Party at a time when much attention in Parliament and the media will be generated by the inquiry into historic sexual abuse of children.

 

http://www.mann4bassetlaw.com/an_open_letter_to_jeremy_corbyn_on_child_abuse

No one, except John Mann (who was called an opportunistic fascist pig for bringing it up) seems to care that Corbyn effectively lied to the House of Commons.

mann3

“Perhaps most worrying of all are the implications of your question to the Home Secretary on November 3rd 2014. You stated that ‘Finally in my own borough of Islington there have been complaints about Islington children’s homes in the past and the council has investigated them.’  This statement at first glance is non-contentious. However, on reflection it is an extraordinary statement considering the representations made to you in the past that the council was in fact covering up abuse and not listening to the survivors, issues you were challenged on at the time.”

“Your carefully worded excusing of Islington Council in the House of Commons equally demonstrates why it is inappropriate for you to attempt to lead the Labour Party at the critical time of the Goddard Enquiry, as child abuse is the issue that will haunt this Parliament.”

Liz Davies does not agree with everything I write. She does not want conflict with Jeremy Corbyn and would hope to work with him to improve the lot of today’s children and of those now adult survivor of Islington. She told me that what she feels is important right now is assisting survivors in looking for their files, most of which are completely missing, piecing together some of their histories from other evidence, and seeing if any action legal or criminal can be taken or if current children need protection. Let us hope that Jeremy Corbyn does not disappoint her.

 

 

 

 

 

Islington Child Abuse Part Two

Colman's Column3

 

A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday September 15 2016.

 

young-keith-vaz-jeremy-corbyn-diane-abbott-and-bernie-gran_622

Last week I began to look at the question: why have the English media not given more prominence to allegations that Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn did not assist, and may indeed have obstructed, the investigations into allegations of sexual abuse of children in care homes in his Islington constituency?

Liz Davies was a social work team manager in the London Borough of Islington where she exposed wide scale abuse of children within the care system. Dr Davies is now Emeritus Reader in Social Work at London Metropolitan University. For several months in 1989, she had been talking to groups of children she suspected were being abused. She and her co-workers heard of sinister adults preying on children who were lured into private houses or abused in care homes. One house in the community was known to be used as a “brothel” for abusing children. The social workers became convinced a paedophile ring was at work in the area.

This is not the place to go into the details of the scandal. Much useful information can be found on Dr Davies’s blog: https://lizdavies.net/about-2/ There is also a wealth of information here: http://islingtonsurvivors.co.uk/.  The Islington survivors network is currently collating new evidence with more survivors and witnesses coming forward.

Morris Fraser

I noted in last week’s column that particular issues were prone to conspiracies-paedophile rings, military intelligence and Northern Ireland.

Dr Morris Fraser was the senior psychiatric registrar at the Royal Victoria Hospital’s child guidance clinic in Belfast. He also wrote the book Children in Conflict, about how the Troubles in Northern Ireland affected children. In 1971 he had sexually assaulted a member of his Belfast boy scout troop in London. The Metropolitan Police failed to inform the Royal Victoria about his London conviction which also went unreported in the media. Another conviction in New York in 1974 on several counts of sodomy on children went unreported.

image48

Fraser was a member of the Paedophile information Exchange (PIE), which was granted ‘affiliate’ status within the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), a pressure group which was later renamed Liberty. At the time, the NCCL was being run by Patricia Hewitt, the future Blairite Health Secretary now making a fortune from private health care. Also prominent in the NCCL at the time were Harriet Harman, the Labour Party’s acting leader before Corbyn’s election, and her husband Jack Dromey, also now a Labour MP. Henry Hodge, the husband of Margaret Hodge, leader of Islington Council,  a resident of Islington,was chairman of the NCCL when the PIE was granted affiliate status.

 

PIE was mainly based in Islington and had its international office there. Fraser sent boys to Kincora and took a Kincora boy to his home in Islington to be abused.

In 1988, Fraser co-founded the Azimuth Trust, which gave sailing holidays to dozens of vulnerable boys in Devon and Cornwall as victims for a paedophile ring. He was also one of eight men charged in New York as part of an organised abuse network. Fraser continued to have access to vulnerable children and to sexually abuse them for a period of about 20 years.

 

A study into Fraser’s activities was recently produced by Irish academic Dr Niall Meehan. Meehan said: “It must be surely assumed that Fraser was allowed to continue his work in return for providing some form of services to the authorities.” It is understood a Freedom of Information request regarding Fraser was turned down for reasons of national security.

Paedophile Information Exchange

Although he was never officially implicated in abuse at Kincora, there seems to have been organised child sexual abuse occurring wherever Fraser lived or worked. A former Kincora resident alleged that he was abused by Fraser, who had extensive links to paedophile groups in England and was close to Peter Righton, the former director of education at the National Institute for Social Work, and a consultant for the National Children’s Bureau.

righton

 

Righton was a founding member of PIE, which wanted the age of consent reduced to four. Both men contributed to the book   Perspectives on Paedophilia. That book is still available from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Perspectives-Paedophilia-Brian-Taylor/dp/0713437189) with a positive review. “An amazingly open and detailed description of a
sequence of pedophile relations, extentively (sic) illustrated with photos.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/10948796/Paedophilia-is-natural-and-normal-for-males.html

Tom O’Carroll is a former chairman of the now disbanded  PIE. In 1981, O’Carroll was convicted for conspiracy  to corrupt public morals because of the contact ads in the PIE magazine and went to jail for two years. A barrister in the case, Peter Thornton, later a QC and senior circuit judge, wrote about it the following year in Rights, the NCCL newsletter. Thornton was critical of the charges, which he said had been “too remote from any tangible misdemeanour” and he suggested that O’Carroll had been convicted on little evidence. In 2002, a nine-month sentence given to O’Carroll for evading a prohibition on the importation from Qatar of indecent photographs of children was overturned by the Court of Appeal. On 20 December 2006, he was jailed for 2½ years conspiring to distribute indecent photographs of children – these were obtained from his co-defendant Michael John De Clare Studdert’s vault of 50,000 pornographic images of children. In December 2015 O’Carroll faced charges of indecent assault and gross indecency against two brothers aged nine and ten and pleaded guilty to one count of indecently assaulting one boy and one of gross indecency with the other. He was given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years, placed on the sex offenders’ register for ten years and made the subject of an indefinite sexual harm prevention order. O’Carroll joined the Labour Party after Jeremy Corbyn became party leader in September 2015. He wrote a creepy article about child mascots at sporting events. He said they “must look the part… be lean, well-proportioned, athletic and good-looking”, with “every suggestion” that they have “been favoured by the gods.’” After a series of complaints from anti-paedophile activists, O’Carroll, now aged 70, was expelled from the party only in February 2016. John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, who has campaigned against child abuse, and criticised Corbyn for his inaction on the Islington child abuse, said: “I led the calls this morning for Tom O’Carroll to be immediately kicked out of the Labour Party. Which local branch let him in?”

tom-o-carroll-1-2048x1536_3416901

 

Former army officers Colin Wallace and Brian Gemmell, who tried to expose the abuse at the care home, have expressed their disquiet at the refusal of Northern Ireland police to reveal what they knew about Fraser. Wallace tried to expose a paedophile ring involving loyalist paramilitaries and politicians in the 1970s, which included him authoring an army memo naming alleged abusers in 1973.

Islington Connections

Fraser lived in Islington in 1990, at a time when paedophile networks had infiltrated Islington children’s homes. This may just be coincidence as he was working at University College Hospital. However, it would not be uncharitable to suspect that he had seen an opportunity to abuse children in Islington. He had also travelled to Turkey, Holland and Denmark to abuse children. In 1993, he was convicted for possession of child pornography.

Another PIE member, Peter Righton, is connected to Islington via the Islington-Suffolk Project, which sent children in care on holidays to Lord Henniker’s estate in Eye, Suffolk. Righton and his partner were invited to live on Lord Henniker’s estate after Righton’s 1992 conviction for importing images of child abuse. (Although there have been no allegations of child abuse on the Thornham Magna estate in Suffolk).

https://bitsofbooksblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/henniker-major/

In 1979, John Rea Price,  Islington’s Director of Social Servicesand Peter Righton sat on the same steering committee to establish a course for training staff to work with disturbed young people. Righton went on to become governor of New Barns school working with disturbed young people, and Islington Council were one of the local authorities to place children there. New Barns school was the subject of a major child abuse investigation after Righton’s arrest. Righton lectured on social work at North London Polytechnic in Islington in 1970.When Social Work Today reported Righton’s arrest there was no mention of the fact that he had long been associated with the magazine and had written dozens of articles for it. The magazine also downplayed the connection between the National Children’s Bureau and Righton. In April 1992, just two months before the article was published, John Rea Price was appointed as Director of the National Children’s Bureau, having recently resigned as Director of Islington Social Services after 20 years in post. In October 1992, not long after his departure, the Islington Children’s Homes scandal became public.

rea-price

White Report

The White Report on the Islington child abuse scandal concluded that there was a culture in Islington council that tolerated sexual relationships between care staff and teenage boys. It also blocked the investigation of people from gay or ethnic backgrounds. “This is a recipe for disaster,” the report said. The report concluded that the ultimate responsibility for the disaster within social services lay with the council and senior officers. The buck ultimately stopped with Margaret Hodge, who had been council leader since 1982.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/158173/response/382362/attach/4/The%20White%20Report%20redacted.pdf

Corbyn and Hodge

We have the testimony of several people that Corbyn was informed of the horrors going on in his constituency. Five social workers visited him and journalist Eileen Fairweather contacted him separately. Some of the victims said that they told Corbyn what was going on and that he promised to do something but didn’t.

Although Corbyn was the local MP when Hodge was council leader and they were both Labour Party members, they were not close. In June 2016, together with Ann Coffey, she submitted a letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party chairman requesting a vote on a motion of no confidence in Corbyn’s leadership. She said she was tabling the motion because Corbyn had failed to convince Labour voters to vote remain in the European Union referendum and that he “had failed a test of leadership”.

hodges

I knew her husband Henry Hodge quite well in the early 80s when he was a prominent left-wing human rights lawyer. Unusually for a solicitor, he later became a judge. He died in 2009. I found him a very likeable companion and agree with an obituarist’s view: “He was a genial, very affable man, with an amused twinkle almost always in his eye. AIT (he was President of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal) stakeholder meetings and the like were made all the more bearable by his self deprecating and humorous chairing.” There was much criticism when Margaret Hodge was appointed the UK’s first Minister for Children in 2003. The Hodges were neighbours and friends of the Blairs and would not share much of Corbyn’s political philosophy. Nevertheless, Islington council was noted for the kind of ‘political correctness’ condemned in the White Report and which Corbyn espouses today.

Although Corbyn said little about the allegations of abuse at the time, Hodge described Eileen Fairweather’s exemplary and courageous investigation as “gutter journalism” and described victim Demetrious Panton as mentally ill.  Panton is now a highly respected lawyer and Labour Party advisor.

A senior media executive alleges that Margaret Hodge has for years used her wealth (although her Oppenheimer family steel fortune has dwindled rapidly because of the attention of vulture funds), influence and patronage, as chair of the powerful Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee and a source therefore of many other stories of interest to journalists, to buy off papers or broadcasters who start to look into Islington. It is interesting to note that Margaret Hodge’s son-in-law, Joe Caluori, is now chair of the Islington social services committee.

 

More next week on lack of media attention to Corbyn and child abuse.

Islington Child Abuse Part One

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday September 8 2016.

Colman's Column3

 

An article I published in Ceylon Today last August has been shared by a few people recently. The article dealt with current UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of action during the Islington care homes scandal which erupted in the late 80s. Corbyn is facing a re-election contest. Despite the fact that most of the parliamentary Labour Party have deserted him, it seems likely that he will remain leader because he has the backing of Labour Party members outside parliament.

1984

https://pcolman.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/ad-hominem-mr-corbyn/

Matthew Collings (a British art critic, writer, TV presenter, and artist) raised the pertinent question on Facebook: given his unpopularity with journalists, why have the English media not given more prominence to allegations that Jeremy Corbyn did not assist, and may have obstructed, the investigations into allegations of sexual abuse of children in council-run care homes in his constituency of Islington in north London? Collings said that he took a particular interest in the matter because he himself missed secondary education, receiving therapy instead at the Finchden Manor Community, a haven for disturbed teenage boys. I have canvassed a number of people in ‘the media’ and done some digging around.

lowell-goddard

There are still many unanswered questions about the Islington scandal. Islington was not on the agenda of Judge Goddard’s historical abuse inquiry because no one submitted it to her. Goddard has now resigned and been replaced by Alexis Jay, who led the official inquiry into the Rotherham scandal, which found that at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited in the town between 1997 and 2013. She is the fourth person to head the inquiry. How long will she last? The satirical magazine Private Eye has referred to the passing of the baton by Britain’s top female relay team.

Kincora

An informed source told me that a senior political figure claims that the cross-party silence on allegations about Westminster paedophile rings stems from the involvement of the security services in relation to Northern Ireland. There are connections between Kincora and Islington.

mcgrath

The Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast was the scene of serious organised child sexual abuse and an attempted cover-up. Allegations of abuse first surfaced in 1977. There were credible allegations that the state colluded in a cover up. On 3 April 1980, three members of staff at the home, William McGrath, Raymond Semple and Joseph Mains, were charged with a number of offences relating to the systematic sexual abuse of children in their care over a number of years; they were all convicted.

In April 1990, a writer called Robert Harbinson (aka Robin Bryans) stated in the Dublin-based magazine Now that Lord Mountbatten and others were involved in an old-boy network which held gay orgies in country houses, as well as at the Kincora Boys’ Home. Another writer, Stephen Prior, in his 2002 book War of the Windsors, claimed that rumours had “linked (Lord Mountbatten) with the notorious scandal surrounding the Kincora Boys’ Home…”.“(Lord Mountbatten) was also said to have an interest in what homosexuals call ‘rough trade’ and to be particularly attracted to working-class boys in their early teens.” Mountbatten was murdered by the Provisional IRA in Mullaghmore, County Sligo, Ireland  on 27 August 1979.

The Kincora case has become live again because the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) began examining allegations relating to Kincora on 31 May 2016, including claims that there was a paedophile ring at the home with links to the intelligence services. Sir Anthony Hart, chairman of the HIA said possible “systemic failures to prevent such abuse” will be investigated. He said that a number of state bodies will be examined, including the RUC. He also confirmed that MI5 and MI6 will be investigated and both will be legally represented at the inquiry. The then Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said that all state agencies would co-operate with the inquiry. James Brokenshire was appointed Northern Ireland Secretary of State by Theresa May on July 14 2016. We will await news of Brokenshire’s performance on Kincora.

Many years ago, Private Eye alleged that high-ranking civil servants and senior military officers were sexually abusing boys at Kincora. https://spotlightonabuse.wordpress.com/tag/kincora-boys-home/. Former army intelligence officer Brian Gemmell said a senior MI5 officer told him to stop looking into claims of abuse at Kincora. He said he presented a report on the allegations to the officer in 1975. “He bawled me out. He was rude and offensive and hostile.”

Another former Army officer, Colin Wallace, suffered worse than rudeness. Wallace said he received intelligence in 1973 to say that boys were being abused, and claims his superiors refused to pass on the information.

wallace

Wallace was wrongly convicted of manslaughter in 1981, for which he spent six years in gaol. The conviction was later quashed in the light of new evidence. Paul Foot, in his book Who framed Colin Wallace? suggested that Wallace may have been framed for the killing to discredit the allegations he was making.  During the appeal hearing, a Home Office pathologist, Dr Ian West, admitted that some of the evidence that he had used at Wallace’s trial had been supplied to him by “an American security source”. In June 1998, a former Special Branch officer who was familiar with the Wallace case wrote to Paul Foot saying: “I sincerely believe that Colin Wallace was ‘fitted up’ by corrupt members of the Establishment embarrassed by the events described in the early part of your book”. Alex Carlile  QC (now Lord Carlile), then the SDP–Liberal Alliance’s Legal Affairs spokesman, issued a statement saying: “It is clear that Colin Wallace, a principled man, knew too much about the Kincora Boys’ Home scandal.”

In 1987, a former senior Ministry of Defence civil servant (once described to me by another mandarin as a “tough cookie”), Clive Ponting, said that he had attended high-level meetings with MI5 officers to discuss Wallace. “There was never any suspicion that Wallace was making these stories up or that it was totally unfounded and very easy to rubbish. It was very much a matter that, OK the story was being contained at the moment because he was in jail, but that in a few years’ time he would be back out again and could be expected to start making the allegations again and then that would be a serious problem.”

In the House of Commons, in 1990, the Government admitted that Ministers had “inadvertently misled” (code for “lied”) Parliament over Wallace’s role. Mrs Thatcher wrote: “I regret to say that a re-examination of departmental papers has brought to light information which shows that there were a number of statements in my letters, and in other Ministerial statements and official correspondence, which were incorrect or require clarification.”

In his 1999 book The Dirty War, Martin Dillon claimed that McGrath (convicted of child abuse at Kincora), who was also the leader of an obscure loyalist paramilitary group called Tara, may have been employed by MI5 since the 1960s and was being blackmailed into providing intelligence on other loyalist groups.

The Belfast News Letter reported that files on Kincora were “conspicuously absent” from the routine January 2013 release of 1982 government papers by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) under the 30-year rule.

 

In a recent item in Private Eye (issue 1425 September 1 2016), it was revealed that thousands of historic files remain suppressed long after the 30-year rule should have released them. This is because the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives is dominated by former diplomats, senior police officers and civil servants and shadowy figures from the world of espionage.

 

As well as ignoring the Islington abuse, the Goddard Inquiry also set aside the Kincora boys’ home case. Some campaigners had wanted Kincora to be investigated as part of the wider Westminster inquiry into historical child abuse, which they argue has more powers than the devolved HIA inquiry.

 

I am not a fan of conspiracy theories. However, there are times when people really do conspire to cover up evil deeds. Particular areas which are prone to this are paedophile rings, military intelligence and Northern Ireland. All those ingredients are mixed up in this brew together with the peculiarities of Labour politics of the 1970s, which shaped the Corbyn we have today.

 

More about Labour Party history next week.

Corbyn and the Tamil Tigers

CorbynTigers

 

 

A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday September 1 2016.That  article was written for a Sri Lankan audience which did not need to have the awfulness of the Tamil Tigers explained to them. This version for a foreign audience gives more illustrations of Tiger crimes. Presumably Corbyn is aware of those crimes, just as he must have been aware of the atrocities being perpetrated on children in his constituency.

https://www.ceylontoday.lk/print20160701CT20161030.php?id=4912

Colman's Column3

Part of the dissatisfaction with Corbyn arises from his tendency to espouse causes which have little to do with the reality of practical politics in the UK itself in 2016. As recently as April 2016, Jeremy Corbyn said he fully supports Tamils in their struggle to achieve self-determination in Sri Lanka.

Corbyn Supports Freedom Fighters

To a certain western mind-set everything is black or white, minorities are always oppressed and discriminated against, governments must be bad, and rebels must be romantic freedom fighters. I recall that in the 1970s, my own trade union in the UK was contributing funds to the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, known as the Tamil Tigers) because they were obviously “freedom fighters” defending the oppressed Tamil minority.

In 1983, Jeremy Corbyn became an MP. In Sri Lanka, 1983 is remembered  with horror for the pogrom known as “Black July”. Thirteen soldiers were killed by the LTTE. Anti-Tamil riots ensued and lasted for ten days with property being destroyed and up to 3,000 people being killed and 200,000 displaced.

Action and Reaction

Over many years before 1983, there had been incidents where ill-disciplined police or military had carried out savage reprisals, rather in the manner of the Black and Tans in Ireland, on innocent Tamils after atrocities by the Tigers – action and reaction. July 1983 was a paradigm shift in terror.

05-rioters-1983-borella-colombo1

These horrific events left an indelible mark on the Tamil psyche. Atrocities were perpetrated on innocent Tamils all over the country and many fled to the north for refuge. Those who could afford to fled abroad, from where they provided ongoing financial support for the LTTE.

Michael Roberts, a Sri Lankan historian and anthropologist looked back on these events:” The militant movement for separation gathered thousands of new Tamil recruits and a rejuvenation of commitment among most SL Tamils, as well a wave of support in international quarters. Sri Lanka also received pariah status on the world stage.”

Many SL Tamils fled to Tamil Nadu, where those of a militant tendency were trained and armed by the Indian government. Many who might not want to engage in violence themselves fled to Canada, Australia and Europe. Many of them prospered and supported the armed struggle vicariously by providing funding. Many Tamils who remained in Sri Lanka were disillusioned at the futility of trying to defend their interests by peaceful means within the existing state apparatus.

http://www.sangam.org/2011/01/Tamil_Question_4.php

Tiger Atrocities

rajiv

The LTTE was guilty of many crimes over the thirty years of the conflict. They assassinated former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and Sri Lanka President Premadasa in 1993. An attempt on the life of President Kumaratunga in 1999 failed but she lost an eye. In that attempt, 23 civilians were killed.

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga, right, is overcome by emotion at her residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka Wednesday December 22, 1999 after winning a second term in office. Kumaratunga survived a suicide bomb attack on Saturday during her final rally of the election campaign. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

In 1985, LTTE gunmen shot dead 146 Sinhalese civilians and injured 85 others as they were praying at a sacred Buddhist shrine in Anuradhapura. A further 18 people fleeing from that massacre were shot dead in Wilpattu forest. Later in the same year, in Dehiwatta village, 100 LTTE men hacked to death 15 women and children as they were sleeping.

In 1986, an LTTE bomb exploded aboard an Air Lanka flight carrying mainly French, British and Japanese tourists killing 21 (including 13 foreigners –2 British, 2 German, 3 French, 2 Japanese, 1 Maldivian and 1 Pakistani) and injuring 41.

tristar

Throughout 1988 and 1989, there seemed to be an LTTE massacre of innocent villagers every day. In June 1990, the LTTE marked the breakdown of ceasefire talks by overrunning police stations throughout the north east of Sri Lanka. The LTTE killed 600 police officers who had surrendered. On June 10, over 400 unarmed police officers were shot dead in police stations across eastern Sri Lanka.

On August 3, 1990, 30 Tigers attacked four mosques in the Kattankudy area, where 300 Muslims were prostrate in prayer. The Tigers sprayed automatic fire and hurled hand grenades at the worshipers. Most of the victims were shot in the back or side. Speaking to the New York Times, Mohammed Ibrahim, a 40-year-old businessman said, “I was kneeling down and praying when the rebels started shooting. The firing went on for 15 minutes. I escaped without being hit and found myself among bodies all over the place.” Mohammed Arif, a 17-year-old student who also survived the massacre said: “Before I escaped from a side door and scaled a wall, I saw a Tiger rebel put a gun into the mouth of a small Muslim boy and pull the trigger.” I do not want to post disturbing pictures of these atrocities but they are available on the internet. https://mbinm.wordpress.com/kattankudy-mosque-massacre/

LTTEKattankudiMuslimMosqueMassare3

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kattankudi_mosque_massacre

diss

Killings continued on a daily basis over the years. In 1994, presidential candidate and opposition leader Gamini Dissanayake (we know his son-in-law) was killed by an LTTE suicide bomber who exploded herself at a campaign rally in Colombo. Fifty others were killed in the blast and a further 75 were seriously injured.

The deadliest LTTE attack on a civilian target in the history of the group’s operations occurred in 1996. The Central Bank (located in the twin towers of the Colombo World Trade Centre) was bombed and 90 people were killed and 1,400 injured. In 1997, another bombing at the WTC killed 13 and injured hundreds.

Scene-of-mayhem

In 1998, a Black Tiger squad drove an explosives-laden truck into the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, a major Buddhist shrine, killing seven and injuring 25. The attack took place just days before foreign dignitaries were expected to attend celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of Sri Lankan independence at the temple.

Later that year the LTTE shot down a plane with 55 passengers (including 48 Tamils) and crew while it was flying over LTTE held territory. Everyone onboard was killed.

In 1999, Dr Neelan Thiruchelvam, a Tamil, who was working on a constitutional package aimed at ending the decades-long conflict, was killed by an LTTE suicide bomber.

In May 2000, the LTTE celebrated the holiest day of the Buddhist calendar, Vesak Poya, by detonating a bomb hidden inside an ice-cream box on a bicycle killing 20 people and injuring 75.

In 2001, a 14-man suicide squad attacked an air force base and the adjoining international airport. They destroyed many aircraft, crippling the country’s economy and reducing tourism.

In 2006, the award-winning author Nihal de Silva and seven Sri Lankan tourists were killed by an LTTE land mine in Wilpattu National Park.

In the same year, The LTTE bombed a bus carrying 140 civilians in the north east. The blast killed 68 civilians including 15 school children, and injured 78 others. It was caused by two claymore mines placed side by side which sprayed the packed bus with millions of ball bearings upon manual detonation. Survivors, including school children, of the blast were shot as they ran away.

In the same year, several civilians were killed in an attempt on the life of defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. A suicide bomber in a truck killed 103 sailors on buses going or returning from leave at a transit point and wounded 150 other sailors.  Two people passing the site were killed and 14 others wounded, mostly civilians.

There are many more instances of LTTE cadres hacking to death unsuspecting villagers at home or at prayer, or on buses or trains (often using multiple bombs in several carriages) on the way to work or school.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_attacks_attributed_to_the_LTTE

The LTTE proved efficient at destroying any other Tamil groups that threatened to undermine their dominance. Elements of the “international community” were able to build a false picture of the LTTE as romantic freedom fighters. That is far from reality. The LTTE had always employed forcible recruitment; every family had to sacrifice a child to the cause of Eelam. This gained pace as defeat loomed in 2009 when Corbyn was trying to save the LTTE.  Children under twelve were recruited. Civilians who resisted were executed.

https://pcolman.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/the-tamil-question-in-sri-lanka-part-2/

No Ban

As far back as 1998, Jeremy Corbyn was offering support to these butchers. At a pro-LTTE rally in London on February 1, 1998, Corbyn was one of the keynote speakers from the British Parliament and delivered a strong condemnation of the Sri Lankan government. The rally was led by a life-sized poster of the LTTE leader Prabhakaran and was followed by LTTE flags and people shouting pro-LTTE slogans.

In 2001, Corbyn was one of only 17 MPs who voted against banning Al Qaeda from Britain just six months before 9/11. Corbyn, then a backbencher, voted against banning 21 militant groups from entering Britain. The Tamil Tigers were on the list as well as Hamas and Hezbollah.

In 2005 Jeremy Corbyn helped create a petition aimed at lifting the proscription of the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. “The Sri Lanka government is carrying out an undeclared war against the Tamil people who have been struggling for more than two decades for the legitimate right to self-rule.” Corbyn was guilty of a conflation here that was also indulged by the BBC, the Independent, the Irish Times, the New Statesman and Le monde diplomatique. The Sri Lankan government was not fighting “the Tamils” it was fighting a brutal terrorist organisation that was oppressing Tamils.

Cease Fires

In 2002, I came to live in Sri Lanka. We had decided it was safe because a cease-fire was in operation. As today, there was a prime minister from the United National Party and an executive president from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. The prime minister then was Ranil Wickremesinghe and the president was Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Today Ranil Wickremesinghe is once again prime minister. The peace in 2002 was an uneasy one – there were checkpoints, soldiers and armed police everywhere. Norway was invited to help with the peace process.

Corbyn explained himself thus: “Twenty-one organisations are due to be banned from operating in this country, causing a great deal of disquiet in the Islamic, Turkish and Tamil communities. That is not because people support terrorism, but because they want to encourage a peace process. They recognise that some of the organisations are currently engaged in ceasefires in their own countries, and are actively engaged in the search for long-lasting peace that will bring about the resolution to conflict.”

The LTTE constantly broke the cease fire. They used the “peace process” to regroup and re-arm. Sections of the Tamil community abroad funded the terrorism.

Constructive Ambiguity

Martin McGuinness made a less than helpful intervention in Sri Lankan affairs when he came here in 2006 and talked with LTTE leaders. McGuinness told Sri Lanka: “The reality is that, just as in Ireland, there can be no military victory and that the only alternative to endless conflict is dialogue, negotiations and accommodation”. Despite the efforts of Corbyn and McGuinness and other members of the international community there was a resounding military victory. Peace still prevails. There has not been a single terrorist incident since May 2009.

To cut a convoluted story short, peace was achieved in Northern Ireland because of exhaustion on all sides and through a process of constructive ambiguity, which allowed all actors to say they had not surrendered. Talks resumed in 1993, after Bill Clinton listened to Sinn Féin. On April 10, 1998, the British and Irish governments formulated the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement. Corbyn voted against the Good Friday Agreement.

No Surrender

praba

Prabhakaran never had any intention of compromising. The LTTE fought for 30 years for a separate Tamil nation. A separate state was Prabhakaran’s bottom line which Corbyn still supports today. In May 2011, Jeremy Corbyn addressed a rally that also featured Tamil Diaspora organisations. Also present were Father SJ Emmanuel of the Global Tamil Forum, Ravi Kumar of the British Tamils Forum, Bairavi Ratnabal of the Tamil Youth Organisation and Jan Jananayagam of Tamils Against Genocide. The rally featured swathes of LTTE flags and condemned the Sri Lanka government. Corbyn’s current enemy, John Mann MP, also attended the rally.

There were accusations of war crimes against the Sri Lankan Army.The army claimed that civilian casualties occurred because the LTTE were using them as human shields.

The numbers game and reconciliation in Sri Lanka

Lobbyists for and against Sri Lanka

It is interesting to read the Hansard record of a debate in the House of Commons on 8 Jan 2013. All the usual anti-Sri Lankan suspects were there – Siobhain McDonagh, Paul Burstow, Barry Gardiner, Gareth Thomas, Lee Scott and Robert Halfon.

However, there were some interventions more supportive of Sri Lanka. Aidan Burley questioned McDonagh’s knowledge: “… when did she last visit Sri Lanka and see for herself—at first hand—some of the things that she is alleging are happening there?” She had to admit that she had never been to Sri Lanka: “Just as I have not been to Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and—it has to be said—most countries in the world”.

Ian Paisley Jr told the House: “I have visited Sri Lanka on a number of occasions, both as a private individual and with constituents who had business there, as well as on a cross-party parliamentary trip. My experience was very different from what I have heard from propagandists not in Sri Lanka”. Paisley continued: “I have met both Tamil and Sinhalese families, and their united wish was to present a picture of hope for their country, not a picture of division. It was a community that wanted to move forward.” Paisley described how his Sinhalese and Tamil guides embraced each other and spoke about how they were now new brothers in a new land. “In many aspects, Sri Lanka has made more measurable gains post-conflict than Northern Ireland.”

Adrian Burley had, unlike McDonagh and Scott, actually visited Sri Lanka: “British politicians should understand Sri Lanka’s reconciliation and help it to demine, so that communities can move back to their own lands. I saw that happening with my own eyes; I saw the minefields being cleared through the HALO Trust, and I saw houses being rebuilt and crops being grown on the old minefields.”

James Wharton agreed with Paisley that people he had met in Sri Lanka did not want to talk about the horrors of the past but were more interested in securing their future. “The tone of debate in the House too often worries me, because we focus on what we can do to punish the Government of Sri Lanka…Such things will not damage the Government of Sri Lanka; they will damage progress towards peace and the prosperity of the people who live in Sri Lanka. The tone of the debate here needs to change. We need to work constructively with the Government of Sri Lanka to put pressure where it is due and, where we can, to deliver improvement.”

Corbyn was not interested in the future. He has never been to Sri Lanka and preferred to reminisce about demonstrations he had taken part in thirty years previously. Burley chastised Corbyn and McDonagh and urged them to talk to people living in Sri Lanka rather than their own constituents: “I found a country at peace with itself. That is what we should be debating and supporting: helping Sri Lanka to build a better future for itself, rather than letting extremists in the UK divide it.”

https://pcolman.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/curse-of-the-conflict-junkies/

marriage_2

 

This wedding took place at Kilinochchi on January 27, 2012, The groom was EMD Sandaruwan, a former member of the Gajaba Regiment of the Sri Lankan Army. He had participated in the defeat of the LTTE .The bride was, Chandrasekaran Sharmila, an ex-LTTE child soldier, who had since been a participant in a government rehabilitation programme. There are many such stories to tell. It is not easy to get the western media to listen to them.

Regime Change

Stressing that human rights abuses have not been fully addressed in Sri Lanka despite regime change, Corbyn announced as recently as April 2016: “We as a party, are very committed to the issues of human rights and justice. We are very committed to the rights of peoples, the Tamil people in this case to achieve their self-expression and their self-determination.”

https://pcolman.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/partisan-people-and-fissiparous-parties/

Jeremy Corbyn is proud to have participated in the London rallies in May 2009, demanding that the international community intervene to end the war. “I remember to this date and I am still angry about the utter silence of the majority of the British and world’s media to the demonstration as well as the cause and the issue.”

Child Brothels in Corbyn’s Constituency

Corbyn did not feel interested enough to take action when he was told that children were being cruelly sexually abused in his own constituency of Islington North. In fact, he made a complaint to the Speaker in 1986 when another MP tried to draw attention to the abuse. In his Spartist agit-prop fantasy world, it seemed more important to him to interfere in the way sovereign state thousands of miles away was dealing (successfully) with its domestic terrorist problem. Unlike the UK Labour government, Sri Lanka did not invade other countries.

 

Gun Control Part Three

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday August 25 2016.

Colman's Column3

More American civilians have died by gunfire in the past decade than all the Americans who were killed in combat during the Second World War.

The Right to Bear Arms

We think of the argument that citizens have the right to bear arms as a particularly American thing revolving around debates on the Second Amendment to the Constitution. “A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

However, this was also an issue in British history in the 17th Century. One of the grievances against James II was that he had caused “several good subjects, being protestants, to be disarmed …”.  Gibbon, in the next century, wrote that “[a] martial nobility and stubborn commons, possessed of arms, tenacious of property, and collected into constitutional assemblies, form the only balance capable of preserving a free constitution against enterprises of an aspiring prince.”

Over 4,000 imported pistols and revolvers were submitted for proof at the Birmingham Proof House in 1889; and 37,000 British pistols were submitted in 1902. For centuries, in Britain, there has been no good reason for citizens to arm themselves in order to overthrow the government, although the current crop of British politicians inspire little trust. The right to bear arms for personal defence was nonetheless jealously preserved, and still exercised into a time almost within living memory. Ninety years ago, it was possible for anyone in Britain, regardless of age or capacity, to walk into a gunsmith’s and buy as many guns and as much ammunition as he could afford.

The Right to Make Money

Paul Jannuzzo, a former chief of American operations for Glock, the Austrian gun company, told Evan Osnos of the New Yorker: “You know that every time a bomb goes off somewhere, every time there’s a shooting somewhere, sales spike like crazy”. Suspicion of impending stricter controls also boosts sales. On January 5th, President Obama announced stricter background checks and the share price of Smith & Wesson, rose to $25.86, its highest level ever. After the attack in Orlando, shares of Smith & Wesson rose 9.8 per cent.

The concept of making money from selling guns to private individuals has an innate flaw: guns last a very long time. Therefore, the industry constantly needs new customers or innovative methods of selling more guns to people who already have some. Americans have accumulated three hundred and ten million firearms. Each American gun owner now has an average of eight guns. Osnos writes: “The right-to-carry movement, by unbridling the presence of firearms in American life and erecting a political blockade against efforts to qualify it, has transformed the culture and business of guns.”

The number of people buying guns for hunting declined rapidly so the industry used fear as a marketing ploy. They managed to make a success of this in spite of the fact that America was becoming much less dangerous because of a sharp decline in violent crime. In defiance of facts, during the mid-two-thousands, almost seventy per cent of Americans were convinced crime had risen in the previous year. In 1997, Massad Ayoob published an article in the magazine Shooting Industry urging dealers to exploit the new concealed-carry laws: “Defensive firearms, sold with knowledgeable advice and the right accessories, offer the best chance of commercial survival for today’s retail firearms dealer.”

How the NRA Changed

Karl Frederick, then president of the National Rifle Association testified to Congress in 1934: “I do not believe in the promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” In 1967, Governor Ronald Reagan told reporters that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.”

The character of the NRA changed in 1977 when the leadership was wrested from the old guard, who were interested in recreation and rifle-training, by activists who used politics to create a gun rights movement. In 1987, the new-style NRA persuaded the Florida legislature to relax the rules that required concealed-carry applicants to demonstrate “good cause” for a permit.

Guns Don’t Kill People

Prince Philip alienated many when he publicly opposed stricter controls in the UK following the Dunblane massacre, in which 16 five-year-olds were killed by Thomas Hamilton with guns he legally owned. In his inimitable style the prince said that “if a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?” Incidentally, Nigel Farage, one of the architects of the UK’s exit from the EU, recently called for a repeal of the laws passed after Dunblane.

Guns may not kill people, but the gun culture that pervades American society is lethal. Wayne La Pierre, deputy CEO of the NRA, often tries to shift the blame for mass killings onto the media, video games, or Obama’s budget. In doing this, he acknowledges that Americans are influenced by their environment and their environment is dominated by guns. People with guns kill people.

Self Defence

NRA Director Charles L Cotton blamed the Reverend Clementa C Pinckney, the murdered pastor of Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, for the deaths of eight of his parishioners because as a South Carolina state legislator Pinckney supported stricter gun control. The NRA’s slogan is: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” There is no evidence for this. There is evidence to the contrary. An FBI study found that in 160 incidents an armed civilian stopped the bad guy on only one occasion. Professor John J Donahue III found that permissive concealed-carry laws led to “substantially higher rates” of aggravated assault, rape, robbery and murder.

A study published by the American Journal of Public Health concluded that a state’s rate of gun-related homicide consistently went up and down as a function of its levels of gun ownership. The USA, with 88.8 guns per 100 people, had a gun-death rate of 10.2 per 100,000 people. At the other extreme, Japan, with less than one gun for every 100 people, has a gun-death rate of 0.06 per 100,000, and the Netherlands, with 3.9 guns per 100 people, has a gun-death rate of 0.46 per 100,000 people. The link between gun ownership and gun-related homicide was consistent from 1981 to 2010. That relationship held even after the researchers–led by Boston University public health professor Michael Siegel–adjusted for state-to-state variances in factors that influence gun-related homicides, such as urbanization, youth population, crime, alcohol consumption, unemployment and poverty rates, educational attainment, and prevalence of hunting licenses.

One is more likely to be killed by lightning than by a mass shooter. The chance of being shot in one’s own home doubles if there are firearms in the house. Disputes that might have naturally faded away are given a different and more dangerous context if there are lethal weapons close at hand.

Trump

One does not expect consistency, “the hobgoblin of petty minds”, from Donald Trump. However, it is still a surprise to find that in 2000 he supported a ban on assault weapons and a 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases. He now needs the support of the NRA and its membership and makes gun-ownership another issue on which to hector the “elites”. Hillary Clinton should disarm her security detail if she wishes to restrict the rights of less privileged people to own guns.

Whether he wins or loses in November, Trump’s fostering of paranoia will have made America an even less safe place. He has widened the gap between “them” and “us” in so many areas including those with what Evan Osnos calls a “combat mind-set” and those without. In the USA there are guns enough for nearly every person (though only a little over a third of Americans own guns).  There are angry gun stock-pilers who are convinced that Armageddon is nigh and they are willing to face it armed and ready. Trump’s supporters will be triumphalist if he wins and angry if he does not do what they want. Many of Trump’s supporters will be very disgruntled if he loses. Many of the disgruntled are heavily armed and belong to militias. Many of them talk openly of their duty to overthrow an elected government if it seems to them to be undermining the constitution.

Many Republicans sought to distance themselves from Trump’s campaign after he told a crowd in Wilmington, North Carolina that if Hillary Clinton won the election and “gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although, the Second Amendment people – maybe there is”. This was a step too far for many – a call to nullify election results at gunpoint.

Gun Control Part Two

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday July 28 2016.

Colman's Column3

There has been a great deal of smugness in Europe about the epidemic of mass slaughter in the US. The recent shootings in Munich remind us that such things to do not only happen in the US. Recent horrors in Europe did not depend on assault weapons – the weapon in Nice was a truck, in Munich an axe bought from a hardware store. The Munich shooter, Ali David Sonboly, used a Glock automatic.

However, just because mass slaughter can be achieved by mentally disturbed people without assault weapons, that is no argument for allowing mentally disturbed people to have access to firearms. Mass shootings are not unknown in the UK but they are so rare that they cause shock and outrage and usually lead to a tightening of gun control.

Hungerford

On 19 August 1987, in Hungerford Berkshire, Michael Ryan shot 16 people dead, including his own mother, using a handgun and two semi-automatic rifles, before committing suicide. Shortly after midday on 19 August, Ryan approached Susan Godfrey, who was picnicking in Savernake Forest. He marched her away from her two young children and shot her 13 times in the back. During Ryan’s rampage, a police officer died and many people were injured. 15 other people were also shot but survived.

No firm motive for the killings has ever been established.  Dr John Hamilton of Broadmoor Hospital and Dr Jim Higgins, a consultant forensic psychiatrist for Mersey Regional Health Authority, both thought Ryan was schizophrenic and psychotic. Hamilton stated: “Ryan was most likely to be suffering from acute schizophrenia. He might have had a reason for doing what he did, but it was likely to be bizarre and peculiar to him.”

The police saw no reason to deny Ryan his firearms certificates in spite of the fact that many people described him as odd. Everyone who knew him thought he was a fantasist who told stories about a non-existent military career. Ryan did labouring work dressed in combat fatigues and was obsessed with guns. He carried his guns in his car and took pot shots at road signs. Given a job clearing footpaths in the town, Ryan would turn up carrying his rifle.

After the massacre, there was an immediate demand for a tightening of the law controlling the possession of guns. “The existing legislation is wholly inadequate …” said the General Secretary of the Police Superintendents’ Association. “There are too many guns in circulation and a lot of people who have guns clearly should not be in possession of them.” The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 was passed in the wake of the massacre. The Act bans the ownership of semi-automatic centre-fire rifles and restricts the use of shotguns with a capacity of more than three cartridges (in magazine plus the breech).

At the time of the massacre, Ryan legally owned a Zabala shotgun, a Browning shotgun, a Beretta 92FS semi-automatic 9 mm pistol, CZ ORSO semi-automatic .32-caliber pistol, Bernardelli .22-caliber pistol, a Type 56 7.62×39mm semi-automatic, aM1 carbine .30 (7.62×33mm) semi-automatic rifle (a rare “Underwood” model).

Why would a school caretaker need such weapons?

 

Dunblane

On Wednesday 13 March 1996, Thomas Hamilton, aged 43, drove his van to Dunblane Primary School near Stirling, in Scotland. He cut the telephone cables around the school  and made his way to the gymnasium carrying four legally held handguns — two 9mm Browning HP pistols and two Smith & Wesson M19 .357 Magnum revolvers. He was also carrying 743 cartridges of ammunition.

Why would a shopkeeper need such weapons? Why would the authorities grant him a licence to have any weapons at all?

He shot dead sixteen five-year-old children and one teacher before killing himself.

Hamilton seems to have been a paedophile. There had been complaints to police regarding Hamilton’s behaviour towards the young boys who attended the youth clubs he ran. Claims had been made of his having taken photographs of semi-naked boys. He claimed in letters that malicious rumours about him led to the failure of his shop business in 1993. In the 1980s, George Robertson, a  Labour MP, (later General Secretary of NATO and Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, of Islay in Argyll and Bute) who lived in Dunblane, had complained to the local Conservative MP Michael Forsyth about Hamilton’s boys’ club, which Robertson’s son had attended. Robertson acted as a spokesman for the victims’ families. He was also a key figure in the campaign that led to the ban on handguns in Great Britain.

The Cullen Inquiry into the Dunblane massacre recommended that the government introduce tighter controls on handgun ownership and consider whether an outright ban on private ownership would be in the public interest. There was a great deal of public and media pressure to totally ban private gun ownership. The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee agreed with the need for restrictions on gun ownership but ruled that a handgun ban was not appropriate.

In response to this public debate, the Major government introduced the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, which banned all cartridge ammunition handguns with the exception of .22 calibre single-shot weapons in England, Scotland and Wales. Following the 1997 General Election, the Blair government introduced the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997, banning the remaining .22 cartridge handguns in England, Scotland and Wales.

Cumbria

On 2 June 2010 a lone gunman, taxi driver Derrick Bird, killed 12 people and injured 11 others before killing himself in Cumbria, in north west England. The first killings were of people Bird had a personal grudge against, starting with his twin brother and moving on to the family solicitor and then rival taxi drivers. He then drove through several local towns, firing apparently at random, and calling a majority of the victims over to his taxi before shooting them, many of them in the face. After Bird killed himself, police confirmed that two weapons (a double-barrelled shotgun and a .22-calibre rifle with a scope and silencer) had been used by the suspect in the attacks and that thirty different crime scenes were being investigated.

Bird had held a shotgun certificate since 1974 and had renewed it several times, most recently in 2005, and had held a firearms certificate for a rifle from 2007 onward.

How did the firearms legislation allow a taxi driver to have these licences? Why would he need guns?

Gun Crime in the UK

Less than three per cent of firearms offences in the UK result in a serious or fatal injury. For 2011/12, police in England and Wales recorded 541 offences as homicide, of which 42 (eight per cent) involved the use of firearms — a rate of 0.1 illegal gun deaths per 100,000 of population. The number of homicides per year committed with firearms in England and Wales in the ten years to 2011/12, averaged 56 per year. During the same period, there were three fatal shootings of police officers in England and Wales, and 154 non-fatal shootings, an average of 15.4 per year. Britain has some of the strictest gun regulations in the world. As of the middle of last year, there were 1.8 million licensed guns of all kinds in the country, according a report by the UK government. The UK’s population is just under 65 million.

Britain is proud of its record on gun control but why should there be 1.8 million licensed guns in the country? I can never get my head around why ordinary people should be allowed to have guns at all. The three cases described above show that severely disturbed people were allowed to legally possess firearms when they had no need of them.

A small group, known as the Gun Control Network, was founded after Dunblane. Bereaved families and their friends also initiated a campaign named the Snowdrop Petition to ban private gun ownership. The petition achieved 705,000 signatures and was supported by some newspapers, including the Sunday Mail, whose petition to ban handguns had raised 428,279 signatures within five weeks of the massacre.

The UK legislation that was passed had bipartisan support. Even after the killing of Jo Cox MP, political rivals came together in their grief and shock. One cannot imagine Obama and Trump getting together after a shooting the way Cameron and Corbyn did. This is not because British politicians are necessarily morally superior to their US counterparts. I would argue that British legislation is morally superior on this particular issue.

Next week – the right to bear arms.

 

Gun Control Part One

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on July 21 2016.

Colman's Column3

On July 8 2016, there was yet another mass shooting in the US. Five police officers were killed in Dallas, Texas when a gunman opened fire during a peaceful protest about police killing black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. Seven more officers and two civilians were wounded by 25-year-old Micah Johnson. Johnson had been a member of the US Army Reserve until April 2015, served in Afghanistan, and lived in a pleasant black middle class suburb. He had no criminal history or ties to terrorist groups.

President Obama is spending the last months of his presidency acting as counselor to a troubled nation. His speech on the Dallas shootings won general acclamation but Conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch said it was only good until it became “a partisan political lecture on gun control, race, and policing”.

 

On June 12 2016 in the UK, Muhiddin Mire was found guilty of attempted murder. He will be sentenced on July 27.

Leytonstone is a station on the Central line, the line which runs roughly west to east through central London and into the north-eastern suburbs. On December 5 2015, Mire stabbed three people at the station before police subdued him with a stun gun and made an arrest. He was reported to be shouting Muslim slogans and “This is for Syria”.

The Metropolitan Police were very quick to describe this as a “terrorist incident”. The Somali-born knifeman had images of Fusilier Rigby (beheaded by a Nigerian Muslim) and British Islamic State executioner Jihadi John on his phone, along with material linked to ISIS.

It later transpired that the assailant, aged 30, had a history of severe mental illness. His name was not on any database of suspects or known extremists, and he was not believed to have been exploited by any known terrorist group or individual. After Mire was convicted of attempted murder and incarcerated in Broadmoor high-security mental health facility, Commander Dean Haydon, head of counter-terrorism for Scotland Yard, said: “I would not class it as a terrorist incident now.”

Mire had a history of mental illness and was experiencing paranoid delusions a month before the attack. He was sectioned in 2006 during an episode “when, essentially he lost touch with reality” and a month before the incident his GP referred him to his local community mental health services. He had missed an appointment with a community mental health team four days before the incident on 5 December 2015. Mire’s family had also become concerned about his mental health and tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to return to Somalia.

Mire had targeted Lyle Zimmerman at random after travelling on the same tube carriage. On video footage, Mire was seen turning Zimmerman over, kicking him six times to the head and chest, and sawing at his throat with a breadknife. Louise McGuinness said in a statement that when she shouted at Mire to stop he turned to her and said: “This is for telling me to stop,” and kicked Zimmerman harder. It seems that his attack on Zimmerman was in emulation of the beheading of Lee Rigby.

Zimmerman, who sustained three large lacerations to his neck that exposed his trachea, testified at Mire’s trial in May 2016, where he said he felt his attacker was “a crazy person, a mentally ill person.”

Prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC had told jurors Mire’s mental health problems were not a defence to his intention to kill Mr Zimmerman. Mr Rees also argued Mire had shown interest in ISIS and Islamic extremism before his “relapse” and his decision to give up his job as a taxi driver. The prosecutor said: “He is sympathetic to those who are choosing to pursue jihad against the non-Muslims. It can be no coincidence that he carried out the attack three days after parliament had voted to extend the bombing campaign against ISIS to territory in Syria. The evidence clearly establishes that the motive underpinning this attack was that bombing campaign in Syria. That was at the very forefront at his mind.”

After the jury delivered its verdict, Judge Richard Marks QC, praised those who remained at the station to warn others while Mire carried out his attack. He said: “There are members of the public who showed remarkable courage and good heartedness who became involved in this case.” He praised the “public spiritedness of the people who rushed in to help on the day of the attack”.

Those public-spirited people did not run away and called the police and filmed the attack providing helpful evidence. The police arrived fairly promptly, tasered the assailant and protected him from an angry mob as they took him into custody.

Nobody died.

So here we have a seriously mentally ill person who has become further deranged by Islamist propaganda, He is arrested, put on trial and will be sentenced and probably locked up in Broadmoor for the rest of his life. The attack was horrific for those involved, particularly Lyle Zimmerman, but nobody died because the only weapon Mire had to hand was a fragile bread knife.

In Orlando, a seriously mentally ill person who had become further deranged by Islamist propaganda, a bi-polar wife-beater with repressed homosexual tendencies, killed 49 innocent people and was then killed himself. Omar Mateen could not be stopped by his victims because he was armed, not with a fragile bread knife, but with an AR-15-type assault rifle, which he would only have needed to reload once during his killing spree due to the weapon’s large magazine size. In the state of Florida, anyone over the age of 18 can buy an AR-15 as no state permit is required. AR15s are owned by around 3.7 million American households. The National Rifle Association has defended the mass sale of assault rifles, insisting they are useful for wild hunting and “home defence.” Why would a family need such a weapon for self-defence? It is not a gun suitable for hunting. Its main function is mass slaughter. The AR15 has become the weapon of choice for mass killers in the US.

I was astounded by the utter fatuity of a comment on Facebook. Someone commented in a fit of juvenile snarkiness: “OK – it’s the gun’s fault”. The NRA is always trotting out the cliché, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people”. Amend that to, “People with guns kill people, so don’t let madmen get their hands on AR15s.”

I understand why people feel the need to comment on the killing of British MP Jo Cox. It is such a terrible thing for a young woman with two young children and so much to offer the world to be cruelly taken away. We feel we have to say something. We feel we have to say such things should be prevented. We feel we have to seek lessons from this tragic event. I wonder though what lessons there are. Jo Cox’s murderer, Thomas Mair, was clearly mentally ill but we cannot lock up all mentally ill people and he gave no indication of being a danger to anyone. His house was full of books on fascism but can’t send the police around to check everybody taste in reading. People with mental illness should ideally be kept away from guns but how does one do that? UK laws are already stricter than in the USA.

A US civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), based in Alabama, said on its website that it had obtained records showing a Thomas Mair had links dating back to 1999 with the neo-Nazi organisation NA (National Alliance). The SPLC posted images showing what it said were purchase orders for books bought by Mair, whose address is given as Batley, from the NA’s publishing arm National Vanguard Books in May of that year. The orders included a manual on how to build a pistol.

 

According to reports collected by the Gun Violence Archive, on the same day as the Orlando massacre there were 42 other shootings in the US which resulted in 18 deaths and 41 injuries. At least five of those killed were children. There have been no mass shootings in the UK since June 15 2016 when Jo Cox was killed. Next week, I will look at how countries other than the US react to mass shootings.

 

Brexit Part Two

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday July 14 2016

Colman's Column3

 

650

Grievance Vote against the Elites

When Mrs Thatcher came to office in 1979, manufacturing accounted for almost 30% of Britain’s national income and employed 6.8 million people; by 2010, it accounted for 11% and employed 2.5 million. In no other major economy was industrial collapse so drastic, speedy and long-lasting. There used to be a working class; there used to be a working class culture. Ian Jack writes about the life of the manufacturing towns: “much of the country’s former character was also owed to them – non-conformist chapels, brass bands, giant vegetable championships, self-improvement, association football. Surely nothing as significant to the nation’s economy, culture or politics would ever emerge from them again? And then it did: grievance.”

British politicians in the past had a hinterland: Macmillan and Attlee served with honour and were wounded in the First World War. They saw the poverty in the land and tried to do something about. Today’s politicians go straight from university to think tanks or to work for politicians. They have little contact with the real world. Johnson and Gove were journalists who wrote op eds not well-researched investigations.  Politicians like Cameron, Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith see it as a noble mission to dismantle the welfare state that Attlee and Macmillan built and privatise public good for the profit of their cronies. In his 1991 book The Rise and Decline of the English Working Class 1918-1990, Eric Hopkins shows how the affluence of the Macmillan years became the bleakness of the Thatcher years. Manufacturing industry was replaced by the service and financial industries and the working class lost its sense of community with unemployment and the emasculation of the trade unions. There is an unpleasant view on YouTube of Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party haranguing fellow MEPs, telling them they do not know about real life and have never done a proper job in their lives. The man sitting behind him was a cardiac surgeon who was born in a Gulag. Farage was a commodities broker.

Sunderland was the first to declare a result in the referendum and it was overwhelmingly for leaving as were many other areas devastated by Thatcherism and its aftermath – areas kept alive by massive EU subsidies. Wales as a whole voted to leave. Michael Sheen, the Welsh-born actor (who played the role of Tony Blair) from Port Talbot, tweeted: “Wales votes to trust a new and more rightwing Tory leadership to invest as much money into its poorer areas as EU has been doing.” Many people voted Leave as a way out of seemingly hopeless circumstances. Cornwall, which voted solidly for Leave, has already demanded British government “protection”.

Economic Consequences

Standard & Poor’s stripped Britain of its triple-A credit rating. The Conservative Party set great store by London’s position as the world’s leading financial centre. Banks are preparing to shift jobs out of London amid the uncertainty about whether the UK can keep its “passporting” rights allowing them to operate across the EU. Ironically, although the UK was proud of keeping out of the euro, leaving the EU could mean the City will have rules imposed upon it by eurozone countries.

There is no doubt that some financial services jobs will be relocated to Dublin, Frankfurt, and Paris. US bank JP Morgan has warned 4,000 jobs will go from the UK and HSBC has said 1,000 City jobs will move to France. An Irish friend long resident in France tells me that Paris estate agents are being swamped with enquiries from large financial institutions in London looking for apartments for their personnel. “Whatever Osborne might say, that is the reality”. Rumours are sweeping the City that alternative trading sites are being set up in a number of other financial centres, including Luxembourg.

A survey by the Institute of Directors (IoD), found that nearly two-thirds of those polled said the outcome of the referendum was negative for their business. A quarter of those polled were putting hiring plans on hold, while 5% said they were about to make workers redundant. One in five respondents, out of a poll of more than 1,000 business leaders, were considering moving some of their operations outside of the UK.

There will be an immediate, and downward, impact upon GDP as uncertainty about the UK’s terms of trade with the rest of the world will deter even British firms from investing. If businesses stop investing there will be less employment in the UK economy. This will have a bad effect on consumer spending.

Immigration, Stupid!

Many in Ebbw Vale, the constituency of those left-wing icons Nye Bevan and Michael Foot, voted UKIP in the last general election – a town with almost no immigrants that voted to get the immigrants out. A recent survey showed that 77% of UK citizens are concerned about immigration above any other political/economic topic – and concern is strongest and most widespread in constituencies with virtually no recent immigration.

One can, without wanting to join a fascist party, empathise with those white working class people who feel in their gut that decisions that they were powerless to influence were made by people who were cushioned from the consequences of those decisions. One can understand their sense of insecurity as they see familiar areas changing because of immigration. I was shocked to find that the part of my hometown, Gloucester, which had been the birthplace of the poet and composer, Ivor Gurney, was full of Muslims and mosques. However, in the early 50s it had been full of West Indians.

The austere and donnish classicist, Enoch Powell, had dockers marching through the streets in his support. In the sixties, he became the unlikely spokesman for the beleaguered white working class, even winning the endorsement of Eric Clapton. Because he was a contrarian and mischief-maker, it is likely that Powell took delight in raising issues that both parties shrouded in complicit silence. His “rivers of blood” speech raised matters of real concern. In particular, he was right to suggest that areas like Wolverhampton were experiencing acute problems in adjusting to the concentration of recent immigrants.

Whether or not people voting Leave had legitimate concerns about immigration, there is no doubt that the referendum result seems to be giving licence to racists. Many MPs received reports from their constituencies and communities of migrants being intimidated or “told they need to go home”.  Many people, whose parents or grandparents were born in the UK, now say they feel less secure.

Boris Johnson tells us in his Daily Telegraph column (for which he gets paid 5,000 pounds a week) that he wants a “balanced and humane points-based” immigration system, but that’s for the extremely indeterminate future – and everyone can meanwhile look forward to ‘intense and intensifying’ co-operation with Europe, and opportunities to live, travel, work and study on the continent just as they please. The only pledge the Leavites could honour is a points-based immigration system, which the UK has had since 2008.

A likely scenario is that many elderly people living abroad will have to return to the UK, thereby placing a burden on the NHS (which will not be getting the extra funding promised by the Leavites), while young people currently working and paying taxes will leave the UK.

Conclusion

I respect anybody’s right to vote the way they choose. I am angry at the hypocrisy of those who are dismantling the welfare state and the NHS for the profit of their cronies but pretending to be saving the nation from Brussels bureaucracy.

Many who voted to leave the EU blamed immigrants for their reduced circumstances. There are real problems in the areas that voted to leave. Those problems were not caused by the EU or by immigration. They were caused by the deliberate policies of successive UK governments.

It is distressing to watch the rancour generated by this referendum. George Szirtes is a distinguished poet who found a welcome in England when his family was displaced by the Hungarian uprising in 1956. George sees a very different country today and finds it hard to forgive the Leavites: “You have changed not only my life but a great many people’s lives, both here and elsewhere, for the worse. I am not going to shake your hand for that.”

 

 

 

Brexit Part One

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday July 7 2016.

Colman's Column3

George Bernard Shaw, an Irishman, once wrote: “Do not believe the laws of God were suspended for England because you were born here.”

david-cameron-487174

David Cameron has post-dated his resignation as prime minister of the UK until October. English football manager, Roy Hodgson, resigned immediately after his team put in an appalling performance in the European Championship against Iceland.  Iceland has a population of 330,000 and 100 professional players. Diehard England football fans always think that this time the World Cup or the Euros will be different – until they’re not.

 

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03:  Roy Hodgson, manager of England looks on prior to the International friendly match between England and Norway at Wembley Stadium on September 3, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Many in the EU will be grateful for the UK’s departure, breathing a sigh of relief that they will be spared British exceptionalism and superiority. They will be grateful that the fantasy that Britain is doing the EU a favour is at an end.

In the early 90s, I was talking to a EU insider who compared the behaviour of delegates from the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The Irish went to all the social events in Brussels and got to know everybody, and generally got what they wanted by way of charm and intelligence and working the system. The Brits complained a lot and went to bed early.

Cameron’s Legacy

David Cameron promised to have a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU in order to appease the Eurosceptics in the Conservative Party – those John Major called the “bastards”. This cynical ploy has not only led to the possible fragmentation of the EU, with far-right parties, which are strongly represented in the European Parliament, calling for similar exit referenda in their own nations, it certainly means the end of the UK.

Scotland, Northern Ireland and most major cities, including London, voted Remain. The referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014 resulted in a victory for those wanting to stay in the UK. I warned at the time that, although the victory could not be challenged, there could be serious consequences if the views of the 44% who wanted Scottish independence within the EU were not considered. In the general election of May 2015, the Scottish National Party won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats to become the third largest party in the Commons.

Cameron’s legacy on Ireland could be an end to the peace process. An important element of the Good Friday Agreement was that the terrorists’ goal of a united Ireland was subsumed  because the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland were both co-operating within the EU. Cameron’s legacy will be the re-erecting of the border between the six counties and the 26 counties – with all the tensions that will bring. Another scenario, however, is that Northern Ireland might join the Republic – Sinn Fein have already called for a referendum on removing the border. In a bizarre twist, Ian Paisley Jr, son of the fire-breathing pastor who bellowed “No surrender!” has advised his constituents to apply for Irish passports. Another border issue now looks rather different – in Gibraltar, 95% voted to Remain, so that outpost of doughty Englishness may become part of Spain to stay in the EU.

What Was the Plan?

Some of the more cogent arguments for remaining made by derided “experts” indicated that a divorce after 43 years of marriage was likely to be extremely complicated, messy and acrimonious. Disentangling trade agreements and establishing a host of new bi-lateral agreements with individual states will be a nightmarish task which will take decades and require the input of armies of experts and bureaucrats.

The foreign secretary, Philip Hammond warned that the Leavites needed to tell voters how they planned to reconcile “mutually incompatible” promises made during the referendum campaign over restricting immigration at the same time as continuing free trade.

That Is Not What We Meant at All

As soon as the result was known, the Leavites started backtracking. The 17 million or so who voted for Brexit were being told almost from the moment the polls closed that they weren’t going to get any of what they had voted for anyway. Michael Gove had been happy about leaving the single market and damn the economic costs. Others now concede the UK will have to stay in the single market. Daniel Hannan MEP admitted that free movement of labour might continue. While votes were still being counted, Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party confessed that it had been “a mistake” for Vote Leave to pretend that there would be an extra £350m a week for the NHS. Boris Johnson and Michael Gove’s promise to scrap VAT on energy bills were obviously fanciful with an economy slowing down and they are irrelevant when there is no government.

Take Me to your Leader

Who is in charge? Cameron quickly announced his resignation but he will be hanging on until October. Michael Gove and Theresa May have announced they will be running for the leadership of the Conservative Party but Boris Johnson has said he will not run – apart from running away from the mess he has created. The opposition Labour Party is in disarray with a majority of MPs calling on Jeremy Corbyn to resign from the leadership.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty


Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty sets out how an EU country might voluntarily leave the union. The UK will be the first full member state to invoke Article 50. The only precedent is Greenland leaving the EU in 1985 after two years of negotiation. It has a population of 55,000, and only one product: fish.

Failure to conclude new arrangements within two years results in the exiting state falling out of the EU with no new provisions in place. If negotiations are not concluded within two years, Britain risks having to leave the EU with no deal at all.

Leavites and Cameron seem reluctant to get the withdrawal moving. However, some EU bigwigs do not want to indulge their delaying tactics. Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU commission president, said: “It doesn’t make any sense to wait until October to try and negotiate the terms of their departure. I would like to get started immediately”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi insisted there could be no formal or informal talks about Britain’s new relationship until the Article 50 had been activated.

The UK will have to renegotiate 80,000 pages of EU agreements, deciding those to be kept in UK law and those to jettison. This will keep parliament busy for decades. Successive governments have made swingeing cuts in the civil service supposedly in the interests of economy and efficiency. The Leavites have excoriated “Brussels bureaucracy” and it is a karmic irony that they have succeeded in unleashing a bureaucratic hell on Whitehall with too few people to deal with it.

Any Turning Back?

The result of the referendum was, legally, purely advisory. To put withdrawal into action it requires the endorsement of parliament. There is another irony in that. A major theme of the Leave campaign was bringing back sovereignty to the UK. The sovereign power of the UK is the monarch in parliament. Lord Heseltine has pointed out: “There is a majority of something like 350 in the House of Commons broadly in favour of the European relationship …There is no way you are going to get those people to say black is white and change their minds unless a) they know what the deal is and b) it has been supported either by an election or by another referendum”. Another estimate is that less than 200 of the 650 MPs supported leaving.

Geoffrey Robertson QC writes: “Before Brexit can be triggered, parliament must repeal the 1972 European Communities Act by which it voted to take us into the European Union – and MPs have every right, and indeed a duty if they think it best for Britain, to vote to stay.”

http://epaper.ceylontoday.lk/TodayEpaper.php?id=2016-07-07

 

More next week on why this happened.

President Hillary Clinton and Sri Lanka

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday June 30 2016

Colman's Column3

 

 

hillarymeetsjayalalithaa

It is hard to imagine what a Donald Trump presidency might bode for Sri Lanka because Trump makes a virtue of avoiding fixed positions on foreign policy – and he lies. We might surmise that Hillary Clinton as president would probably be bad for Sri Lanka because we can examine her track record as Secretary of State at the time that GOSL (Government of Sri Lanka) was trying to defeat the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Clinton chaired the UN Security Council session on September 30 2009 when it adopted Resolution 1888, which dealt with conflict-related sexual violence. The official transcript of her address contained this: “We’ve seen rape used as a tactic of war before in Bosnia, Burma, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere. In too many countries and in too many cases, the perpetrators of this violence are not punished, and so this impunity encourages further attacks.” This is not an off-the-cuff remark – she was reading a prepared speech to a session of which she was the chair.

Sri Lankan prime minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake’s initial response was off-the cuff. He said that Clinton had apparently forgotten the Monica Lewinsky affair and should tend to her own backyard before alleging that women are being maltreated in other countries. This was not very statesman-like but in those days the prime ministership was not an important job.

The Sri Lankan government lodged an official “note of protest” (omitting any mention of Lewinsky) with the US Embassy in Colombo. Professor  Rajiva Wijesinha, then Secretary to the Human Rights Ministry, told The Island that the government would like the US to reveal any specific allegations against the Sri Lankan Army and  that it was unfortunate that those who had failed to save the LTTE from being crushed, at the hands of the Sri Lankan Army, were now harassing Sri Lanka.

 

Trump has been taking every opportunity to embarrass Clinton on the issue of her e-mails. The controversy over Clinton’s use of a private server led the US government to release some of the e-mails. This enables us to see what her thinking on Sri Lanka was behind the scenes.

A letter from the State Department to Sri Lanka’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Rohitha Bogollagama claimed that “numerous cases of rape and sexual violence in Sri Lanka, particularly acts committed against women held in detention by the government” had been detailed over the years by the US government and international human rights groups. This misses the crucial point that Clinton was not merely saying that rapes had occurred but that the Sri Lankan state had officially adopted sexual abuse as a weapon of war.

 

The letter was signed by Melanne Verveer, ambassador at large for global women’s issues at the State Department. She did concede that “in the most recent phase of the conflict, from 2006 to 2009 … we have not received reports that rape and sexual abuse were used as tools of war, as they clearly have in other conflict areas around the world.” She made sure that she got the last word and set the scene for Clinton’s future actions in getting Sri Lanka’s war record examined by the UNHRC. “Secretary Clinton believes that Sri Lanka must focus to the future and move forward on the promotion of peace and the protection of human rights,”

 

On Oct 3, 2009, Lissa Muscatine, a senior aide to Clinton, acknowledged there had been a lack of due diligence in clearing Clinton’s UN statement.  State department spokesperson Philip Crowley wrote that Clinton was open to the idea of the response coming from someone other than herself. “She feels that this has generated a great deal of media commentary in various quarters, including prominent outlets in this country and in Asia that we have no choice but to respond in a public way. Government supporters are saying that she is listening to the Tamil Diaspora”.

Verveer’s letter was not a retraction and did not come from Clinton. Clinton was still appeasing those who had been calling for an international inquiry into the Vanni offensive. The idea that GOSL used rape as a weapon of war still hung there. Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN, Major General Shavendra Silva, asserted that allegations of rape, during the conflict, as well as in the  post-war period, were meant to justify demands for withdrawal of the Sri Lankan army from the Northern Province. The UN repeated the allegation, in early 2014, in relation to the post-war period also.

 

On 6 May 2009 Deputy Assistant Secretary Mike Owens declared “We, of course, have designated the LTTE as a terrorist organization, and we certainly have no sympathy for some of the things that they’ve carried out, but I think you do have to ask a very legitimate question: Why did they have a following in the beginning? And I think it’s because some in the Tamil community do have legitimate grievances, and we need to find — I think it’s imperative for Sri Lankans to find a way to give everyone in the community, all Sri Lankans a legitimate voice in their government.”

 

There is no denying that Sri Lanka’s military received significant help from the US in its struggle with the LTTE. However, Clinton seemed miffed when President Rajapaksa refused to bow to demands from the international community for a cease fire. Rajapaksa knew fine well that the LTTE used cease-fires to regroup and re-arm and, being so close to victory after 30 years of brutal war, he was not going to fall into that trap.

 

During the war against the LTTE, Sri Lanka’s traditional arms suppliers imposed restrictions. GOSL had to look elsewhere and China was willing to help. Following the defeat of the LTTE, the Rajapaksa regime chose to focus on rapid economic revival and development of infrastructure. The US reneged on its commitment to provide $500 million from the Millennium Development Account for road development.

The released e-mails reveal that Clinton tried to block an IMF loan to GOSL and that the IMF did not like it. Clinton was told that the IMF had, during the final stages of the war, lambasted her in a conversation with Timothy Geithner, the then US Secretary of the Treasury, for ordering the IMF to suspend funding to Sri Lanka. In an email sent to Clinton by Burns Strider, a former senior advisor, Strider said people on the ground with the World Bank and the IMF believed the LTTE must be completely defeated.

 

During her previous campaign for the presidential Democratic nomination Sri Lankan Americans who strongly supported her were discouraged by the way her remarks on terrorism were manipulated by pro-LTTE outlets. Clinton visited Tamil Nadu and met Chief Minister Jeyaram Jayalalithaa, a persistent critic of GOSL, on July 20 2011 and proffered congratulations on her electoral victory. Clinton invited Jayalalithaa to visit US to tell Americans about the great achievements of Tamil Nadu.

 

Clinton has supported regime change in Asia, Africa and South America. She supported the sanctions that did so much harm to Iraqi children. Clinton is supported by former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who said on TV that the death of half a million Iraqi children was “worth it”. In the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons. When the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was publicly sodomised with a knife, Clinton gloated: “We came, we saw, he died.” The US might have thought they had got the regime they wanted after Rajapaksa was ousted and the new government “co-sponsored” with the US a resolution on human rights for the UNHRC. However, the UNHRC business seems to be moving slowly and the current Sri Lankan government has found that it cannot live without China after all. Perhaps the new President Clinton will have plans for a Sri Lankan spring and further regime change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

joemcgann

In this day and age...

Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Dr Liz Davies

Emeritus Reader in Child Protection

Astha Gupta

Travel is poetry. Poetry is travel.

Skeptical Raptor

Stalking pseudoscience in the internet jungle

Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

DHH Literary Agency

The latest news from the team at DHH Literary Agency

thebluemoment.com

A blog about music by Richard Williams

Numéro Cinq

A warm place on a cruel web

United States Hypocrisy

A critical analysis of the American empire's high-minded rhetoric, and the ways in which it continually fails to square with reality.

Internet home of Kate Armstrong

Author of 'The Storyteller'

The Broken Elbow

A View of the World from New York and Belfast (Public PGP Key: 210D6F47)

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

Views on life, the universe and everything...from a middle aged perspective

Smart Patriots Sri Lanka

A People's Movement

The Backpack Press

Writing about New York and everywhere else

This and That Continued

Jenny Diski - Writing and stuff.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

(Somewhat) Daily News from the World of Literary Nonfiction

ankie renique's blog

A blog about freelance translation as an expat, travel, food & drink and all things Sri Lankan.