Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

He Is the Lime Man for the County

LimeMan2

This man makes a probably meagre living from selling limes and sometimes mangoes, papayas and bananas. He is not a beggar. He has some disability in his legs and gets about in a wheelchair cum tricycle. (Don’t ask me why his legs work for pedalling but not walking.) He is out in all weathers trying to make an honest living from selling fruit. We have seen him out in the blazing heat and the pouring monsoon rain and cyclonic winds. Limes are available in many places (the best ones, the juiciest, come from our own garden) but we always buy from him. We never ask for change and sometimes give him much more than he asks. We buy him shirts and sarongs from time to time. He had an accident with his tricycle and could not afford the repairs. We paid. I say these things not to boast but to suggest that people who complain about beggars and street vendors being out to cheat everybody would feel much better in themselves if they changed their outlook on life. It is a selfish thing – ditch the begrudgery and give. You will enjoy it. We are not rich but it does not break our bank account to give the Lime Man a little extra. He feels better for our giving and we feel better too. Win win.

limeMan1

Greville Janner

A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on Tuesday April 21 2015 under the heading “Cowardly and Wicked” (accompanied by a picture of Lord Longford rather than Lord Janner).

http://www.ceylontoday.lk/51-90502-news-detail-cowardly-and-wicked.html

“Cowardly and wicked”  were the words used by Keith Vaz MP in 1991 to describe the allegations against Greville Janner.

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Keith Vaz is chair of the Commons home affairs select committee. Vaz enjoys portraying himself as a champion of the voiceless, happy to castigate the Home Office over its handling of the current investigation into child abuse.

Lord Janner Will not Stand Trial.

cameron

Baron Janner of Braunstone is a prominent ex-barrister, aged 86, widowed with three children. As Greville Janner, he represented Leicester West as a Labour MP for almost 30 years. Janner is also a former president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and he has been prominent in the field of education about the Holocaust.  He was President of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Anti-Semitism, and chaired the All-Party Britain-Israel Parliamentary Group. He co-founded (along with Prince Hassan of Jordan) the Coexistence Trust, a charity to combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

janner geller

After retiring from the House of Commons in 1997, he became a life peer. Janner was a member of the Magic Circle. One of his few subsequent forays into the public eye came in 2002, when Uri Geller, a friend, arranged for him to accompany Michael Jackson and David Blaine on a tour of Parliament. Lord Janner was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2009 and now requires round-the-clock care for his dementia.

jac

The UK Crown Prosecution Service said on 16 April 2015 that Janner would not be tried for sexual offences against children. Alison Saunders, the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions), said that because of Janner’s dementia a trial would not be in the public interest.

In statement issued through lawyers, Janner’s family said he is entirely innocent of any wrongdoing. “As the Crown Prosecution Service indicated today, this decision does not mean or imply that any of the allegations that have been made are established or that Lord Janner is guilty of any offence”.

In 1995, the DPP decided not to try Szymon Serafinowicz, a retired carpenter from Surrey, under the War Crimes Act in connection with murders of three Jewish people during the Second World War because of his dementia. Janner condemned the DPP’s decision. “I don’t care what bloody age they are,” he told The Jewish Chronicle. “These criminals should have been dealt with years ago.”

The Faulds File

I remember Andrew Faulds from my childhood. He played  Captain Jet Morgan in Journey into Space on the radio in the 1950s. He had already been a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1948. He was Labour Member of Parliament for the Smethwick constituency from 1966 until his retirement in 1997. When he  died in 2000 at the age of 77, Michael White, in his Guardian obituary described Faulds as “unmistakably loud and thespian… a man of deeply-held passions…who lacked either the patience or the subtlety to do effective justice to those concerns at Westminster.”

 

Shortly before retiring, he created an archive of the paperwork he had accrued during three decades in Parliament and lodged it at the library of the London School of Economics. Among the 263 boxes,  is a four-page leaflet published by a group which called itself ‘Concerned Leicester Parents’ and  a 24-page booklet, which claimed on its cover to reveal: ‘How people in high places covered-up for a Parliamentary paedophile’.

Janner and Frank Beck

youngJanner

From 1994 to 1997, I worked at the Department of Health as a policy advisor to ministers on child protection. Someone I often met at Home Office meetings was Alison Saunders, who is now Director of Public Prosecutions.

FrankBeck

One of my colleagues spent a great deal of his time on the Frank Beck case. Beck was an officer-in-charge of several children’s homes in Leicester during the 1970s and 1980s. Beck died in prison in June 1994. He had been  convicted at Leicester Crown Court in November 1991 of 17 charges of sexual and physical abuse of boys and girls including rape, buggery, indecent assault and assault and sentenced to five life terms. My colleague had a very fat file of correspondence in which members of the public made serious and credible allegations against Greville Janner that connected him with Frank Beck.

Indeed, Janner’s name came up during Beck’s trial. One witness, who had previously said he had had a two-year sexual relationship with Janner, named the politician as one of his abusers. The jury was told the claims were a “red-herring” and irrelevant. In 1991, during the investigation leading to Beck’s trial, a man, Paul Winston,  alleged he had been groomed by Janner from the age of 13. Janner’s only police interview took place that year at a police station in Leicester. He attended with his solicitor and gave “no comment” answers. The CPS advised there was insufficient evidence to charge.

Closing Ranks

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In 1991, the House of Commons rallied to Janner’s defence. That scourge of Sri Lanka, Labour’s Keith Vaz, a fellow Leicester MP, rose to deplore the “cowardly and wicked” slur on a “distinguished” colleague. The majority of the MPs who spoke in Janner’s defence were Conservatives.

keith-vaz-labour_2011398a

Jay Rayner was a young freelancer in 1991 trying to do a story on Janner’s connection with Beck. He now recalls the wall of silence he encountered. He writes that Vaz is happy to castigate the Home Office over its handling of the current investigation into child abuse. Rayner tweeted Vaz to ask his views on the DPP decision. Vaz blocked him.

jannerandblair

 

Blair made Janner a life peer in 1997 – after the credible allegations mad against him in 1991.

 

janner-and-cherie

During Operation Magnolia in 2002, another Leicestershire Police inquiry, residents of a care home made further  allegations against Janner. Police decided to take no action against him.

During Operation Dauntless in 2007, an individual made complaints about serious sexual assault against three people, including Janner, over incidents alleged to have taken place in 1981. The CPS ruled there was insufficient evidence. Mick Creedon, now chief constable of Derbyshire police, but then a detective sergeant on the Beck case, told the Times last year that he and colleagues wanted to charge Janner but senior officers ordered him to neither arrest Janner nor search his London flat.

Anti-Semitism

A website connected with neo-Nazi groups has  been publicising the Janner case. They will no doubt exploit Janner’s activities for anti-Semitic purposes. For many years, bloggers campaigning against paedophiles in high places have been pointing out the fact that Janner and Leon Brittan are Jewish.

Jewish friends have described to me their own encounters with Janner. One said, he was so “galled by his pomposity and unmistakable air of the huckster that I distanced myself from his causes. I did not want this creep speaking for me”. He went on to say that he was frustrated by the fact that Janner seemed to be above criticism on the left and among Jewish activists. “I was shot down…for daring to express my strongly-held view that he was a wrong-un”.

Innocent until Proved Guilty?

In statement issued through lawyers, Janner’s family said he is entirely innocent of any wrongdoing. “As the Crown Prosecution Service indicated today, this decision does not mean or imply that any of the allegations that have been made are established or that Lord Janner is guilty of any offence”.

I have often written against witch hunts, vigilantism and smearing by unsubstantiated rumours. As Lord McAlpine said: “There is nothing as bad as this that you can do to people. Because they [paedophiles] are quite rightly figures of public hatred. And suddenly to find yourself a figure of public hatred, unjustifiably, is terrifying “. It is possibly worse to be falsely accused when you are someone with few resources. Dawn Reed and Christopher Lillie were cleared by a court but they lived in fear of their lives when the Sun whipped up a lynch mob.

https://pcolman.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/the-persecution-of-lillie-and-reed/

CPS lawyers spent nine months studying evidence gathered by Leicestershire police’s Operation Enamel. Detectives approached more than 2,000 potential witnesses and interviewed more than 25 men who claim Janner abused them when they were children in care. Some of them told police about extreme sadistic behaviour, involving the use of blindfolds and restraints.

Credible Allegations

DPP Alison Saunders has stated publicly and clearly that both the CPS and Leicestershire police were at fault for the failure of previous inquiries. The CPS statement conceded that Janner, while “in a position of authority and trust as the local MP for Leicester West”, befriended the manager (Frank Beck) of a children’s care home to allow him access to children.

In some cases, the CPS decides there is not sufficient evidence to take a case to court. Ms Saunders said quite clearly that her office had decided that there WAS SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE for  Janner  to stand trial on 22 sex offences against children. He would have been charged with 14 indecent assaults on a male under 16 between 1969 and 1988; two indecent assaults between 1984 and 1988; four counts of buggery of a male under 16 between 1972 and 1987; and two counts of buggery between 1977 and 1988.

DPP Criticised

Leicestershire police took the unusual step of issuing a statement saying they might challenge the DPP’s decision in the courts, possibly calling for a Judicial Review. Sir Clive Loader, Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner, a Conservative, said the decision was “not just wrong” but “wholly perverse” and “contrary to any notion of natural justice”. The Assistant Chief Constable of Leicestershire feared that other victims would be dissuaded from coming forward. “

Victims and their families are also exploring avenues of redress through civil proceedings now that there criminal proceedings have been ruled out. Liz Dux, of Slater & Gordon solicitors, said the 25 alleged victims could claim for up to £100,000 each. She said: “If they are successful, damages could be very sizeable.”

One victim said: “Let someone feel the pain and suffering that I’ve endured and am still going to endure for the rest of my life. It’s not a case of being found guilty or going to prison – it’s about being believed after so long being told we were lying. Justice needs to be served.”

hamish Baillie

Hamish Baillie, one of Janner’s victims.

The Labour MP Simon Danczuk, who used parliamentary privilege to be the first to publicly  name the Liberal MP Cyril Smith as a paedophile, said Janner should be stripped of his peerage. (Danczuk‘s relentless efforts on behalf of his constituents forced the reluctant Sri Lankan authorities to take action against a thuggish local politician who murdered a British tourist and raped his girlfriend.) “This terrible decision is bringing the whole justice system into disrepute and will be devastating news to the alleged victims.”

DPP Defended

The evidential test prosecutors must apply before a criminal charge is laid has been passed. This evidential test was also passed in the three previous police investigations but the CPS failed to charge Janner. Many have condemned the DPP’s decision  on the grounds that  Janner could have been put before a court where his fitness to stand trial could be assessed by experts publicly in front of the trial judge. One   lawyer defended the decision. She told me: “She has had the guts to make a difficult and unpopular decision. The right to a fair trial is enshrined in the European Convention on Human rights .Inability to follow proceedings or instruct lawyers will prevent a fair trial. The DPP has had four medical reports saying that he is not fit to stand trial.  There would be no benefit in bring Janner before a court when the judge’s decision would be the same as hers. Indeed it would be regarded as an abuse of the process of the court ”.

Etc Etc Amen Part One of a review

 

 

 

 

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday April 19 2015.

 

http://www.nation.lk/edition/insight/item/40005-airport-novel-with-ideas-above-its-station.html

cover

Howard Male described his first novel as: “An airport novel with ideas above its station. A literary novel that’s having too much fun for its own good.”

 male plus cat

“We have the skeleton of a philosophy but, as you know, it’s primarily a philosophy committed to its lack of commitment to the very ideas it puts forward”.

So says Barney Merrick in Howard Male’s novel Etc Etc Amen. The novel  is stimulating and entertaining on a number of levels. Male says: “It’s a love story, a hate story, a murder mystery, a suicide mystery, a conspiracy thriller, a satire on organised religion, it’s not sci fi, it’s not horror, it’s not a rock novel – despite the fact it has elements of all those genres.”

 

My own interpretation is that the novel’s main thrust is as a satire on religion but it also provides a wry picture of the rock music business. I think I also detect a satire on the parasitic nature of journalism in general as well as rock journalism in particular.

There is a strong element of the page-turning thriller- I received a few surprising jolts as I was reading so I must take care not to emit any spoilers. There is also a vivid evocation of Marrakech, which brought back happy memories for me.

Male’s main creation in the book is rock god Zachary Bekele, who founds a non-religion (which becomes a cult) called KUU (The Knowing Unknowable Universe). The bible of this non-faith is The KUU Hypothesis. The St Paul of KUU is erstwhile rock journalist Paul Coleridge. The novel is structured upon extracts from The KUU Hypothesis, selections from The Life and Death of Zachary B by Paul Coleridge, a narrative written  in London 2005 about the 1970s, and accounts of a visit to Marrakech in February 2007 by a female journalist, August, and a photographer, Damian.  They are investigating a series of deaths of KUU followers and are awaiting an interview with the cult’s Leader Who Is Not a Leader

Zachary’s Story

Rock journalist Paul Coleridge is assigned to interview Zachary Bekele who is a 70s glam rock star.  We piece together Zac’s biography from extracts from Paul Coleridge’s memoir and from the visit of August and Damian to Marrakech. Zac’s father, Girma Bekele, had made a fortune selling stolen icons from Ethiopian monasteries. His dodgy reputation adds further intrigue to Zac’s persona.

Paul gets an early warning about Zac’s character when the star plays table football in an unsportsmanlike manner  and then  reneges on the promised interview. Paul has to work up the Man of Mystery angle to meet his deadline. Paul begins to feel that his articles have played a significant role in promoting Zac’s success. Between 1972 and 1975, he was one of only two journalists to whom Zac would talk.  Zac seeks Paul’s opinion about new tracks, but will not accept anything but praise.

Coleridge recalls Zachary’s early performances in the 70s: “vocally, he was part Scott Walker and part Marvin Gaye”. He was an intellectual as well as a rocker; he told an interviewer, “CS Lewis and Jerry Lee Lewis were guiding lights.” He acknowledges his English roots – he was born in Chelmsford and loves the Kinks and the Stones- but his father was from Ethiopia. “We’re about soul music from Saturn. Vibes from Venus”. There is something of Bowie and Bolan about Zachary B.  Memories of seeing Arthur Brown perform as the God of Hell Fire in a blazing helmet came back to me as I was reading.

arthur-brown2

Nick Valentine, Zac’s manager says: “Don’t let all that peace and love bullshit fool you. He needs fame even more than he needs money”. Zac develops delusions of grandeur. As well as the attentions of the usual kind of groupies, he also has a stalker who hoards his cigarette butts like religious relics.

When Punk came along in 1976, or so the received wisdom goes, it was a rebellion against pretentious “progressive” rock. In fact, Johnny Rotten often talks about his respect for artists like my former neighbour Peter Hammill of the “progressive” band Van der Graaf Generator.  As long ago as 1977 Lydon  said: “Peter Hammill’s great. A true original. I’ve just liked him for years. If you listen to him, his solo albums, I’m damn sure Bowie copied a lot out of that geezer. The credit he deserves, just has not been given to him. I love all his stuff”.

Bowie

Zac is not ready for punk. Changing musical tastes make him redundant and a spectacular at Trafalgar Square intended to resurrect his career instead finishes it off.  Zac’s solipsism makes him deaf and blind to the discomfort and displeasure of the audience and the other musicians. “Since Trafalgar, in the eyes of the public, he’d come to represent the more farcical, cartoon-like aspects of the rock world: he’d become lumped in with Gary Glitter rather than David Bowie, and it must have hurt like hell”. He succumbs to the degenerate rock lifestyle of groupies and drugs. “During 1975 and 1976, Zac’s coke and cocaine habit gathered further momentum”. Paul and Zac’s wife Jody bond as they both become sidelined.

Garyglitter

Glam Rock

This novel deals, in part, with the early pre-punk 1970s that gave birth to a strange phenomenon known as Glam Rock. I lived through that era and survived to tell the tale. Glam Rock did not appeal to me but I can appreciate Male’s respect for the more talented practitioners, such as Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Roxy Music and their rougher US equivalents, the New York Dolls. Even the better acts toyed  with androgyny and sexual ambiguity – “gods dressed as goddesses”. Lower class versions hit the charts with other people’s songs but were mainly ludicrous bandwagon jumpers – “mutton dressed as lamb Second Division”.  Zac describes them as “builders dressed as princesses with their stubble and acne-pocked jaw lines making a mockery of their meticulously glossed lips”.

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Rock and Religion

I recall seeing live performances by the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Brown wore outlandish costumes (although he sometimes stripped naked) and a flaming helmet as he declaimed: “I am the god of hell fire!” The record was produced by Kit Lambert and Pete Townshend and issued by The Who’s Track Records label. It sold over a million. Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake and Palmer was in Brown’s band when I saw them. Brown was also notable for the extreme make-up he wore onstage, which would later be reflected in the stage acts of Alice Cooper, (there is a character in Male’s novel called Alice Cooper- she is female) and Kiss. Brown’s behaviour was so outrageous he was even  kicked off a Jimi Hendrix tour. Brown is still performing 50 years later.

Townshend himself has had spiritual moments. Since the late-’60s, Townshend has been a disciple of Indian mystic Meher Baba “I heard the voice of God. In an instant, in a very ordinary place at an unexceptional time, I yearned for some connection with a higher power. This was a singular, momentous epiphany – a call to the heart. “Jimmy Page spoke about: “that fusion of magick and music… alchemical process.” Dylan flirted with born-again Christianity and then explored his Jewishness. Later he said: “Here’s the thing with me and the religious thing. This is the flat-out truth: I find the religiosity and philosophy in the music”. Alice Cooper himself (Vincent Furnier) says: “It doesn’t matter how many drugs I take, I’m not fulfilled. This isn’t satisfying. There’s a spiritual hunger going on. Everybody feels it. If you don’t feel it now, you will. Trust me. You will…Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s the real rebellion.”  Male mentions John Lennon’s notorious comments: “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right, and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first — rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

More on KUU theology next week.

 

Immunity and Community Part Two

A version of this article appeared on page A10 of Ceylon Today on Thursday April 16 2015. It is a sequel to an article published on April 7: http://www.ceylontoday.lk/51-89454-news-detail-immunity-and-community.html

Colman's Column3

My grandfather, before the First World War, worked as groom and footman at Berkeley Castle near Bristol. He was born at Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire.

Edward Jenner

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Many years earlier Edward Jenner also worked at Berkeley Castle. I have seen the building where Jenner changed the world. The book Smallpox Zero includes President Thomas Jefferson’s letter of congratulation to Jenner. Edward Jenner was born on 17 May 1749 in Berkeley, the eighth of nine children. His father, the Reverend Stephen Jenner, was the vicar of Berkeley. Edward Jenner went to school in Wotton-under-Edge and Cirencester. During this time, he was inoculated for smallpox.

Edward Jenner called smallpox the Speckled Monster. During his time, it killed ten per cent of the population, rising to 20% in urban areas where infection spread easily and it was responsible for one in three of all child deaths.   Noting the common fact that milkmaids were generally immune to smallpox, Jenner postulated that the pus in the blisters that milkmaids received from cowpox protected them from smallpox. He coined the term vaccination – the word vacca means ‘cow’ in Latin. In 1979, the World Health Organization declared smallpox an eradicated disease. This was the result of coordinated public health efforts by many people, but vaccination was an essential component of this success.

Even in Jenner’s time, there was opposition to vaccination. Variolators, (those who made much profit from collecting the pus of affected patients to promote immunity) objected for commercial reasons. Some opposed vaccination on religious grounds, saying that they would not be treated with substances originating from God’s lowlier creatures. Variolation was forbidden by Act of Parliament in 1840 and vaccination with cowpox was made compulsory in 1853. This in its turn led to protest marches and vehement opposition from those who demanded freedom of choice. The term “conscientious objector” came out of resistance to the 1853 statute requiring the vaccination of all infants. Forty-five years later, the government added a “conscience clause,” allowing parents to apply for an exemption. The exemption clause was rather vague, requiring only that the objector satisfy a magistrate that it was “a matter of conscience.”

Conscientious Objection

Taking one anti-vaccination website at random, here are some of the arguments one finds:

 

  • Pharmaceutical companies cannot  be trusted
  • All vaccines are loaded with chemicals and other poisons
  • Fully vaccinated children suffer more chronic illnesses than unvaccinated children
  • Many countries are waking up to the dangers of vaccines
  • Many opponents are prey to what Eula Biss, in her book On Immunity, calls “a variety of preindustrial nostalgia”
  • An important element of opposition is libertarian, either on the left or on the right, and anti-government.

 

On Fox News, Sean Hannity announced that he would not trust “President Obama to tell me whether to vaccinate my kids.”  Senator Rand Paul, a potential Republican candidate for President—and a doctor—said: “I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.” He did not provide evidence to support this anecdote.

Deadly Immunity?

Proponents say that vaccination is safe and one of the greatest health developments of the 20th century. They point out that illnesses, including rubella, diphtheria, smallpox, polio, and whooping cough, are now prevented by vaccination and millions of children’s lives are saved. I recently read in The Lancet that Hepatitis-C will soon be history. They contend that adverse reactions to vaccines are extremely rare.

Opponents of vaccination today say that children’s immune systems can deal with most infections naturally, and that injecting questionable vaccine ingredients into a child may cause side effects, including seizures, paralysis, and death. Some who commented on last week’s article spoke of a link between vaccines and autism and expressed a justifiable suspicion of the motives of Big Pharma. In 2005, Robert F Kennedy Jr wrote an article arguing that there was a cover-up of a link between thimerosal used in vaccines and speech delays, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity, and autism.

robert-kennedy-jr-

Kennedy’s article was corrected many times within days of publication, and was eventually retracted and deleted. An 18-month investigation by the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions concluded that Kennedy’s allegation was unsubstantiated. Nevertheless, “thimerosal was [being] voluntarily removed from childhood vaccines distributed in the United States as a precaution,” prompted by a joint request by the American Academy of Paediatrics and the US Public Health Service.

“I think it is dangerous that he is spreading misinformation about something that’s very important for public health,” Senator Richard Pan, a paediatrician, said in an interview. “Autism rates have continued to rise even though we are not using thimerosal in vaccines for children,” he added. “We still haven’t figured out exactly what causes autism. We do know it’s not vaccines.”

 

Autism and Vaccination

 

In February 1998, the Lancet published an article by Andrew Wakefield MD, which claimed, “Rubella virus is associated with autism and the combined measles, mumps, and rubella [MMR] vaccine… has also been implicated.” Anti-vaccination groups and parents began using Wakefield’s article as rationale to opt-out of vaccinating their children.

andrew.wakefield
Between 2003 and 2012, Brian Deer, an investigative reporter, published 36 articles, which accused Wakefield of “falsifying medical histories of children and essentially concocting a picture, which was the picture he was contracted to find by lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers and to create a vaccine scare.”  Ten of Wakefield’s twelve co-authors released a “Retraction of an Interpretation” in Lancet, stating, “We wish to make it clear that in this paper no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient.”

 

The Lancet stated on February 2 2010, “It has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect.” On January 5 2011, the British Journal of Medicine published an article stating that Wakefield received over $674,000 from lawyers and that, of 12 children examined, five had developmental problems before being vaccinated and three never had autism.

In 2011, Wakefield’s medical license was withdrawn because he had “abused his position of trust” and “brought the medical profession into disrepute.” The American Academy of Paediatrics has released a list of more than 40 studies showing no link whatsoever between vaccines and autism.
It is ironic that part of the autism scare is distrust of Big Pharma but Wakefield took large sums of money to falsify his research. There are others making big money out of fear. In 2011, Dr Joseph Mercola donated one million dollars to a number of organizations that oppose vaccination. He heads the Mercola Natural Health Center in Chicago and offers information on his website about the dangers of water fluoridation and metal amalgam in dental fillings, as well as speculation that HIV does not cause AIDS. The site gets two million hits a month and products available for purchase range from tanning beds to air purifiers to vitamins and supplements. The website and Mercola LLC generated an estimated $7 million in 2010.

Herd Immunity

Why cannot vaccination be a matter of individual choice? When large percentages of a population have become immune to an infectious disease, this provides a measure of protection for individuals who are not immune. Once a certain threshold has been reached, herd immunity or community immunity will gradually eliminate a disease from a population. Herd immunity also exerts an evolutionary pressure on certain microorganisms. Opposition to vaccination has posed a challenge to achieving herd immunity in certain populations, allowing diseases to persist in communities that have inadequate vaccination rates. Parents who fail to vaccinate their children may be jeopardizing the health of other children who are unable to be vaccinated. When the number of unvaccinated children rises above a certain threshold, “herd immunity” is compromised.

Legal Compulsion

Some legal experts believe that parents who do not vaccinate their children should be subject to criminal prosecution (including criminally negligent homicide and monetary damages) if their unvaccinated children infect and harm other children.

The highest vaccination rate in the US is in Mississippi, a state with an otherwise dismal set of health statistics. It allows people to opt out of vaccines only for medical reasons—not for religious or personal ones. States that make it easier not to vaccinate have higher rates of infectious diseases.

Conclusion

I shared some articles written by others on Facebook condemning those who endanger lives by opposing vaccination. One of my Facebook friends said that his nephew suffered irreversible brain damage after vaccination. I had no answer to that. I could not argue that there must have been some other cause.  The family who suffer that kind of grief will not be receptive to arguments about herd immunity.

In her book On Immunity Eula Biss tries to reconcile her divided feelings, fearing both infection and the imagined risks of vaccination: “On the pro-vaccine side … is a tendency to accuse people who are wary of vaccination of being stupid and not understanding science … most of them actually are in my demographic:  well-educated people with advanced degrees, who are upper middle-class and have read quite a bit on the subject… I think if we’re really concerned about stopping falling vaccination rates, we also need to be concerned about the actual reasons why those rates are falling, and not just write it off to stupidity.”

The debate is often conducted stridently on both sides. We need to sympathise with people’s genuine fears that vaccines might be harmful to their own children. Try telling a mother that she should accept the risk of her own child dying in order that thousands might live. What mother sees her child as a mere component of “the herd”? At that same time, we need to look at the research calmly and resist the propagation of myths.

 

 

Immunity and Community Part One

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Tuesday April 7 2015

 

Colman's Column3

I had most of the childhood illnesses without too many problems. I remember measles as being soporifically pleasant. I slept endlessly, wrapped up in a tartan blanket in front of a roaring fire in the kitchen of my grandparents. Mumps was painful but I survived. I had a bout of whooping cough. Chickenpox was an itchy scalp and I still have some scars. My abiding memory of that illness is that while I was still off school my father took me to the cinema (perhaps before I was fully recovered) to see Laurence Olivier’s Richard III. This was strong meat for an eight year old. I was morally confused. Olivier’s Richard was clearly bad because he was killing many people to get his political way. However, he was funny, charismatic, and occasionally likeable. The scary thing was that during the soliloquies, he was speaking directly to me and I could not escape. I feigned boredom and pleaded to go home. I had nightmares in which Richard was the dressing gown hanging on my bedroom door.

I also had a respiratory attack – I panicked when I could not breathe. The GP diagnosed it as bronchitis but it sounds more like asthma. My mother decided I was allergic to feather pillows and I have avoided them ever since and  have had no further attacks. My mother may have been somewhat overprotective but she had been severely ill as a child with rheumatic fever and had known people who died of diphtheria and scarlet fever.

These days one can get vaccinations to protect against measles (rubeola), whooping cough (pertussis),mumps (parotitis), chickenpox (varicella), asthma, diphtheria, scarlet fever (scarlatina) and tetanus.

The Fever Van

In 1901, Emil von Behring won the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work developing serum therapy for a diphtheria vaccination. Thanks to (among other factors) vaccination, scarlet fever and diphtheria, which were common in the 1930s, are now almost unknown in the UK.

These diseases occurred mainly in children between the ages of two and eight and spread rapidly because children would often continue to play with friends in the street and to mix with neighbours despite symptoms.  Social stigma sometimes caused families to conceal the illness and an outbreak on a farm could lead to a ban on the sale of dairy products and hence loss of income. LS Lowry’s painting The Fever Van recalls those times. These vehicles operated throughout Britain from around 1910 to the 1950s transporting patients with infectious diseases from their homes and isolated them in special fever hospitals for up to six weeks. This allowed time for their own immune system to fight off the infection and limited the risk of contamination between patients and family. However, there was a strong likelihood of never returning, such was the high mortality of scarlet fever and diphtheria.

Nietzsche wrote: “What does not kill you makes you strong”.  The body often provides its own immunity. I did not get vaccinations against measles, mumps, chickenpox or asthma but I survived. “Natural” immunity results from the body defending itself against an infectious illness. Vaccines provide immunity without a potentially dangerous infection.

Measles

Although measles was a fairly pleasant experience for me, it  has killed more children than any other disease in history. Complications range from the mild, such as diarrhoea, to the serious, such as pneumonia, otitis, acute brain inflammation, subacute sclerosing, panencephalitis, and corneal ulceration.

Between 1855 and 2005, measles killed about 200 million people worldwide. Measles killed 20 percent of Hawaii’s population in the 1850s.  In 1875, measles killed over 40,000 Fijians, approximately one-third of the population. In the 19th century, the disease killed 50% of the Andamanese population. Seven to eight million children died from measles each year before the vaccine was introduced. Measles still affects about 20 million people a year mainly in Africa and Asia.

In 2011, the WHO estimated that there were about 158,000 deaths caused by measles. This is down from 630,000 deaths in 1990.  As of 2013, measles remains the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in the world. In 2012, the number of deaths due to measles was 78% lower than in 2000 due to increased rates of immunization among UN member states.

One in every twenty children with measles will develop pneumonia; one in every thousand will develop encephalitis, which can leave a child deaf or brain-damaged. Measles is airborne and extremely contagious; a virus transmitted by a sneeze can still infect people an hour later. A community generally needs more than ninety per cent of its members to be immunized against the virus in order to protect everyone.

Recent Measles Epidemics

In 2013–14, there were almost 10,000 cases in 30 European countries. Most cases occurred in unvaccinated individuals. In 2014, a review by the Centers for Disease Control concluded:  “the elimination of endemic measles, rubella, and CRS has been sustained in the United States.” However, an outbreak that started in February 2015 in California, has now spread to 14 states and there is fear that it will spread throughout the nation, particularly in places where parents have sought legal exemption from vaccination. California is one of nineteen states that allow people to opt out not only for religious and medical reasons but also because of a loosely defined “personal belief.” Antii-vaccination sentiment decreased the community immunity afforded by public health programmes. Currently, eight percent of children in California kindergartens are not adequately vaccinated.

The infection has now spread beyond California to Utah, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Mexico. Last year, California made the “personal belief” exemption law more stringent, requiring parents to submit a form signed by a health professional. Governor Jerry Brown, at the last minute, added a religious exemption, so that parents who object to vaccination as a matter of faith do not need a physician’s signature.

Pertussis

Outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) were first described in the 16th century. The bacterium that causes it was discovered in 1906. Throughout the world, pertussis affects 16 million people every year and there were 61,000 deaths in 2013 – down from 138,000 in 1990. It strikes people of any age. Two per cent of children under one who get it will die. Most cases occur in the developing world

A vaccine became available in the 1940s. In the latter 20th century, vaccinations helped to reduce the incidence of childhood pertussis in the US. However, reported instances increased twenty-fold in the early 21st century, causing many deaths. Many parents declined to vaccinate their children for fear of side effects from the vaccine itself. There have been concerns that DPT, a class of combination vaccines against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus caused brain damage.

As long ago as 1990, the Journal of American Medical Association called the fear a “myth” and “nonsense”. No studies showed a causal connection. The alleged vaccine-induced brain damage proved to be an unrelated condition, infantile epilepsy. Scepticism endures – in 2012, more than forty-eight thousand pertussis cases and twenty deaths were reported to the Centers for Disease Control, the greatest number since 1955.

Polio

I did get vaccinations against polio and TB. Diphtheria was seen as a disease of poverty but the aristocratic president of the USA, Franklin D Roosevelt, was struck down with polio. I remember the shock in 1959 when Jeff Hall died of polio. He was a young and fit footballer, playing with distinction at full-back for Birmingham City and England. Hall’s last match for Birmingham was away to Portsmouth on 21 March 1959. He became ill two days later and was admitted to hospital where he was diagnosed with polio. Over the next twelve days, his condition deteriorated; he became paralysed and lost his speech before dying on 4 April, aged 29.

Polio had been a comparatively rare disease in Britain. However, at its peak in the 1940s and 1950s, polio would paralyze or kill over half a million people worldwide every year.  In 1952, during the worst recorded epidemic, 3,145 people, including 1,873 children, in the United States died from polio. It was feared because of its capacity to maim young and healthy bodies. The consequences of the disease left polio victims marked for life, in wheelchairs, crutches, leg braces, or iron lungs. One sees many victims in Sri Lanka. Rock poet Ian Dury was severely disabled by childhood polio. Booker Prize winner JG Farrell contracted the disease when he was at Brasenose College Oxford and was partially disabled, sometimes needing an iron lung. There is a strong suspicion that his death by drowning in County Cork was suicide. Anxious parents kept their children away from swimming pools where the disease was thought to spread, but take-up of the Salk vaccine was slow.

In the weeks following Hall’s death, and after his widow, Dawn, spoke on television about her loss, demand for immunisation surged. Emergency vaccination clinics were set up and supplies of the vaccine flown in from the United States to cope with the demand.

The last case of natural polio infection acquired in the UK was in 1984. Between 1985 and 2002, 40 cases of paralytic polio were reported in the UK. In Sri Lanka, the incidence of poliomyelitis has decreased steadily along with the rapid increase in the immunization coverage of infants. Sri Lanka has not reported any cases for the last 15 years and the last virologically confirmed case of polio was detected in Sri Lanka in 1993.

 

Vaccination and the concept of “herd immunity” raises civil liberties issues which I will discuss in next week’s column.

 

http://www.ceylontoday.lk/51-89454-news-detail-immunity-and-community.html

Freedom Fighters, Terrorists and Ordinary Decent Criminals

 

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Tuesday March 31 2015.

 

Colman's Column3

 

The world was horrified recently at the news that a co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, had deliberately flown his plane into a mountain killing 150 people. Many have commented that this was the ultimate expression of modern narcissism, a trend for suicidal people to want to take others with them without their consent. I wrote last week about how Kieran Conway, in a book in which he calls himself a “freedom fighter”, admitted responsibility for killing 21 innocent young people in the cause of a united Ireland. No one asked those young people what they thought about it. Terrorism is another kind of narcissism.

There are fuzzy boundaries between war, terrorism, crime, politics and business. Politicians use terms like “war on terrorism”, “war on crime”, “war on drugs”. Some might believe that this is part of a plan to militarise civil society. “Freedom fighters” easily morph into criminals as they resort to bank robberies and drug dealing to raise funds for the cause. Many once considered as terrorists later take their place in government.  In Ireland, there was Eamon De Valera and more recently Martin McGuinness. In Kenya there was Jomo Kenyatta; today his son is president and has had his case dropped by the International Criminal Court.

MIA made it into the news again the other day. It was not for any recent achievement but merely about a gripe that she regurgitated concerning the way Oprah Winfrey had treated her some time ago. Suggestions that MIA was terrorist sympathiser led to some people dragging out that old chestnut: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. Whenever this is said, no definition of “freedom fighter” is offered. No examples of bona fide freedom fighters are presented except for Nelson Mandela.

Ronald Reagan called the Nicaraguan Contra rebels freedom fighters. Reagan also frequently called the Afghan Mujahedeen freedom fighters during their war against the Soviet Union, yet twenty years later, when a new generation of Afghan men fought against what they perceived to be a regime installed by foreign powers, George W Bush labelled their attacks “terrorism”.

Professor Martin Rudner, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Ottawa’s Carleton University, says the phrase “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” “is grossly misleading.” It assesses the validity of the cause when it should be addressing terrorism is an act. “One can have a perfectly beautiful cause and yet if one commits terrorist acts, it is terrorism regardless.

Distinguished scholars have devoted their lives to defining terrorism and have admitted failure. In the first edition of Political Terrorism: a Research Guide, Alex Schmid spent a hundred pages examining more than a hundred different definitions of terrorism. Four years and a second edition later, Schmid conceded in the first sentence of the revised volume that the “search for an adequate definition is still on”. Walter Laqueur despaired of defining terrorism in both editions of his  work on the subject, maintaining that it is neither possible to do so nor worthwhile to make the attempt.

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” seems to mean that state authorities sometimes delegitimize opponents, and legitimize the state’s own use of armed force. Critics call this “state terrorism”.

The UN’s attempts to define terrorism failed because of differences of opinion about the use of violence in the context of conflicts over national liberation and self-determination. Since 1994, the UN General Assembly has repeatedly condemned terrorist acts using the following political description of terrorism: “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable”.

Although, in the international community, terrorism has no legally binding, criminal-law definition, there are definitions of “terrorism”. A study on political terrorism examining over 100 definitions of “terrorism” found 22 separate definitional elements. These can be summarised thus: violent acts, which deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants, intended to create fear, perpetrated for a religious, political, or ideological goal.

Bruce Hoffman wrote: “By distinguishing terrorists from other types of criminals and terrorism from other forms of crime, we come to appreciate that terrorism is :

  • ineluctably political in aims and motives
  • violent – or, equally important, threatens violence
  • designed to have far-reaching psychological repercussions beyond the immediate victim or target
  • conducted by an organization with an identifiable chain of command or conspiratorial cell structure (whose members wear no uniform or identifying insignia) and
  • perpetrated by a subnational group or non-state entity.”

 

Everyone agrees that  terrorism is a pejorative term, with intrinsically negative connotations. Use of the term implies a moral judgment.  According to David Rodin, utilitarian philosophers can (in theory) conceive of cases in which the evil of terrorism is outweighed by the good that could not be achieved in a less morally costly way. Michael Walzer argued that terrorism can be morally justified in only one specific case: when “a nation or community faces the extreme threat of complete destruction and the only way it can preserve itself is by intentionally targeting non-combatants, then it is morally entitled to do so”.

Those dubbed “terrorists” by their opponents rarely identify themselves as such, preferring to use other terms such as separatist, freedom fighter, liberator, revolutionary, militant,  guerrilla, rebel,  or patriot.

The use of violent and brutal tactics by criminal organizations for protection rackets or to enforce a code of silence is usually not termed terrorism. However, “terrorists” or “freedom fighters” often use their capacity to intimidate to engage in similar activities to organised crime. While they were purportedly striving to reunite the six counties of Northern Ireland with the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland, the Provisional IRA were also building up a criminal empire. While this might have begun as a means of financing the republican struggle, crime seemed to become an end in itself. The profits of crime might have been a reason for prolonging the conflict.

Raids on illegal distilleries in Ireland uncovered bottling and capping machinery and high- quality copies of brand labels. Many of the products were designed for use in pub optics. The IRA took the production of counterfeit spirits so seriously that it even had a quality control unit.

Conway writes about his participation in bank raids and gun battles. The IRA’s “elite robbery team” unit organised armed robberies using a tactic known as “tiger kidnapping”, where the family of an employee was held hostage to ensure co-operation. The unit played a central role in the theft of £26.5 million from the Northern Bank just before Christmas 2004 and organized three other robberies which netted a further £3 million in that  year.

According to Customs Revenue officers, about half of Northern Ireland’s filling stations sold fuel smuggled from the Irish Republic, where duty was considerably lower, at a cost to the Treasury of about £200 million a year. Fuel smuggling, much of it organized by the notorious South Armagh brigade, was probably the IRA’s single largest source of income.

The paramilitaries were involved in pirating DVDs and software and the IRA’s links with America gave it access to new releases. The IRA’s counterfeiting operations extended to fake football strips, designer clothes, power tools and a well-known brand of washing powder. A bottle of counterfeit perfume seized at a market was found to contain urine as a stabilizer.

Often the IRA invested as a silent partner in legitimate businesses. The IRA’s finance unit contributed to Belfast’s property boom by investing in houses.

The IRA received up to $6 million (£3.1 million) for helping to train  rebels in Colombia. The payment was allegedly negotiated by a former IRA “chief of staff” who had worldwide contacts — including in Libya, where republicans deposited some of the proceeds from their vast criminal empire.

The Irish gangster Martin Cahill was the subject of two feature films. In The General, Brendan Gleeson played him. In Ordinary Decent Criminals, Kevin Spacey played him. Cahill was involved in petty crime from an early age and turned to armed robbery after stealing arms from a police station. O’Connor’s jewellers at Harold’s Cross, Dublin was forced to close, with the loss of more than one hundred jobs after Cahill stole €2.55 million worth of gold and diamonds from the store.

In 1994, a gunman, who was armed with a .357 Magnum , shot Cahill in the face and torso, jumped on a motorbike and disappeared from the scene. The IRA said that it was Cahill’s “involvement with and assistance to pro-British death squads which forced us to act”. One theory is that John Gilligan, who was convicted of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin (also shot by a motorcyclist), had Cahill killed because he was trying to get a slice of Gilligan’s drug profits.

Gilligan effectively had the complicit support of the Dublin IRA and had members of the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) in his pay. He was importing enough cannabis to make everybody rich. He was even importing small arms, which he passed on to republicans as sweeteners.

The IRA established links with organized crime in the same areas of the Costa del Sol where many of Dublin’s top “ordinary” criminals, the “Murphia”, lived. The Murphia became the wholesale middlemen and women who supplied parts of the UK drugs markets after developing links with their British counterparts.

The dissident republican group the Real IRA was responsible for murders, attempted murders and pipe bomb attacks in the Republic. The group is believed to be extorting millions of Euros from targeting drug dealers — as well as business people — in Dublin and Cork. The Real IRA have taken over many of the security and protection rackets once run by the Provos. The dissidents are also believed to be selling some of these bombs to gangs including criminal elements within the Travelling community.

The Provisional IRA funded its terrorist activities with bank robberies and protection rackets. Martin McGuinness was the IRA Commandant for Derry. He and Gerry Adams were prominent in the labyrinthine negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement and the IRA laying down its arms. As a minister in the government of the statelet of Northern Ireland, McGuinness   visited Sri Lanka to advise us on peace and reconciliation. Sinn Fein, which used to be seen by voters in the Republic as the proxy of the Provisional IRA, is a major Opposition force in the Dáil today and is often mentioned as a possible coalition member of the government. Fiachra Gibbons, in the New Statesman, described Sinn Fein as “a kind of cross between Fianna Fáil and the Catholic Church, but with extra guns, paedophiles and front businesses.”

In Sri Lanka, the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) was mainly dependent for funding in its early days on robberies and extortion.  Trading in gold, laundering money and dealing in narcotics brought the LTTE substantial revenue to buy sophisticated weaponry. They also played a role in providing passports, other papers, and also engaged in human trafficking

Those who carried out the Easter Rising in 1916 are seen in a romantic light compared to the bombers of today. However, like the bombers of today, they  believed they were entitled, although they were but a small unelected group of conspirators in a democratic country, to stage a revolution in which many innocent people were killed. “Armed struggle” generally means fanatics killing innocents by remote control. The whole point of terrorism is to induce fear among non-combatants. It is a bit rich for those committing these acts of terror against civilians to call themselves freedom fighters. Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public for political purposes are abhorrent, whatever political or philosophical justifications are presented.

 

 

Who’s Sorry Now?

Colman's Column3A version of this  article appeared in Ceylon Today on Tuesday March 24 2015.

ConwayBook

Freedom Fighter

Kieran Conway says he is very sorry. What could this respectable-looking white-haired 60-year-old man in his smart suit and red silk tie possibly be guilty about?

Well, there is the small matter of blowing 21 innocent people to giblets while they were out enjoying a quiet drink.

On top of that is the fact that six innocent men each spent 15 years in prison for what Mr Conway and his friends did.

In a recently published book, Southside Provisional : From Freedom Fighter to the Four Courts, Conway, who ran the Provisional IRA’s intelligence-gathering in the 1970s, made the first formal IRA  admission that it had carried out the bombing of the Tavern in the Town and the Mulberry Bush pubs in  central Birmingham. Notice that he thinks of himself as a “freedom fighter”. Conway claimed that the civilian casualties had not been intended. One is reminded of the sentiments expressed by Padraic Pearse, leader of the 1916 Easter rising: “we might make mistakes in the beginning and shoot the wrong people: but bloodshed is a cleansing and sanctifying thing”.

conwayyoung

Birmingham Bombings

I was living in Manchester on 21 November 1974. One of my close friends had recently moved to Birmingham. I had often visited him there and become friends with many of his new friends. I knew the city well because I had been visiting since before I was ten years old to see my cousin Pat Saward, who was also captain of the Republic of Ireland team, playing football for Aston Villa. When I heard the news of the bombings, I was immediately concerned for my friends. I had often been in the Tavern on the Town. I could picture the streets where the atrocity was perpetrated.

pub

The bombs killed 21 people and injured 182. The dead and wounded were mainly young people between the ages of 17 and 25, including two brothers: Desmond and Eugene Reilly (aged 22 and 23 respectively). Their names clearly indicate that they were of Irish extraction and not British imperialists. The Mulberry Bush was on the lower two floors of an office block called the Rotunda. The police began checking the upper floors of the Rotunda but did not clear the crowded pub at street level before the bomb exploded at 20:17. Ten people were killed in this explosion and dozens injured.

boys

At 20:27 a bomb exploded at the Tavern on the Town, a basement pub 50 yards away on New Street. It killed a further 11 people and left many with severe injuries. Several victims were blown through a brick wall. Their remains were wedged between the rubble and underground electric cables; it took hours for firemen to free them. A passing West Midlands bus was wrecked in the blast and passersby were struck by flying glass from shattered windows. The fact that two bombs had exploded  close together meant it was difficult to get casualties to hospital in the chaos.

bus

One of the victims, 18-year-old Maxine Hambleton, had only gone into the Tavern in the Town to hand out tickets to friends for a party. She was killed seconds after entering the pub and had been standing beside the bag containing the bomb when it exploded. Her friend, 17-year-old Jane Davis, was the youngest victim of the bombings.

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Birmingham Six

Evening-Mail-mcdade

On the night of the bombings, six Irishmen were arrested at Heysham Port while about to board a ferry to Belfast. They became known as the “Birmingham Six”.  The six were from Belfast but had lived in Birmingham for some time. They were going to Belfast for the funeral of James McDade who was killed in a premature explosion while planting an IRA bomb at the Coventry telephone exchange. One of the six was also intending to see an aunt in Belfast who was sick and not expected to live.

West Midlands  police were under great pressure to make arrests and the British government were under pressure to clamp down on the IRA. Someone had to pay and it did not really matter who the sacrificial victims were. The Birmingham Six – Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Joseph Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker—were quickly arrested and eventually sentenced to life imprisonment in 1975. The West Midlands Police tortured them- they were deprived of food and sleep, they were interrogated sometimes for up to 12 hours without a break; threats were made against them; they were punched; fierce dogs  were allowed close to them; there were  mock executions.


sixmugs

Forensic scientist Dr Frank Skuse used positive Griess test results to claim that Hill and Power had handled explosives. Dr Hugh Kenneth Black of the Royal Institute of Chemistry, the former HM Chief Inspector of Explosives at the Home Office challenged Skuse’s interpretation. The men had been playing cards on the train and that could have given the same results as explosives. The judge (and the jury) preferred Skuse’s version.  In October 1985, a  World in Action TV documentary In The Interests of Justice concluded that the real Birmingham pub bombers had gone free. Days after the TV programme, the Home Office retired Skuse, aged 51, from the Civil Service on the grounds of “limited effectiveness”. All 350 of Skuse’s cases, dating back to 1966, were re-examined. In 1991, the Court of Appeal stated that the Griess test should only be used as a preliminary test and that Dr Skuse’s conclusion was demonstrably wrong, judged even by the state of forensic science in 1974.

Dr-Frank-Skuse

The convictions of the Birmingham Six were declared unsafe and unsatisfactory and quashed by the Court of Appeal on 14 March 1991. The six men were later awarded compensation ranging from £840,000 to £1.2 million. They had each spent 15 years in prison.

 

six

Guildford Bombings – Legitimate Targets?

Kieran Conway is now a criminal lawyer in Dublin. He says in his book that where off-duty soldiers were the targets of bombings, “I had little sympathy for either the soldiers or the unfortunate civilians who had been sharing their drinking space.”

The bombing of the Horse and Groom and the Seven Stars in Guildford in October 1974 would be acceptable to this freedom fighter because those two pubs were popular with off-duty soldiers from the barracks in Pirbright. Four soldiers and one civilian were killed, whilst a further sixty-five were wounded. Once again innocent people –

Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill, Patrick Armstrong and Carole Richardson

-each spent 15 years in prison for a crime they did not commit. Conlon had been in London at the time of the bombings, and had visited his aunt, Annie Maguire. A few days after the Guildford Four were arrested, the Metropolitan Police arrested Auntie Annie and her family, including Gerry Conlon’s father, Patrick “Giuseppe” Conlon. The Maguire Seven were falsely convicted of providing bomb-making material in March 1976 and sentenced to terms varying between four and fourteen years. The Guildford Four were held in prison for fifteen years, while Giuseppe Conlon died near the end of his third year of imprisonment. All the convictions were overturned years later in the appeal courts after it was proved the Guildford Four’s convictions had been based on confessions obtained by torture whilst evidence specifically clearing the Four was not reported by the police.

Gerry Conlon, despite being portrayed by Daniel Day Lewis in a film, did not have a happy life. He died last year at the age of 65. He spent 25% of his life in prison for a terrible crime committed by someone else and had mental problems as a result.

conlon

 

Paul Hill did rather better. He moved to the USA. In 1993, married Courtney Kennedy, a daughter of assassinated American senator Robert F. Kennedy and a niece of assassinated president John F Kennedy. They had a daughter in 1999, but legally separated in 2006.

paul hill

Troubled Times

 

The year 1974 was a particularly uncomfortable one in which to be Irish in England. I recall sitting in the Irish Club in Gloucester with my sainted aunt who was on a visit with her son and his wife. Our pleasant evening was marred by a brick being thrown through the window. A work colleague vehemently told me that she was boycotting Kerry Gold butter because of the IRA.  One had to be constantly vigilant. When I worked in a social security office in Manchester, we evacuated the building when a security guard found a suspicious parcel in a toilet. It turned out to be a package of sausages. When I worked in London for Sir Arthur Armitage at the Social Security Advisory Committee, I had the building, near Lincolns Inn Fields, cleared when an unidentified parcel arrived addressed to Sir Arthur. Sir Arthur was an eminent lawyer and Vice-Chancellor of Manchester University. We were planning our annual visit to Belfast and he was very nervous about it, having received threats. I was not at all embarrassed when the parcel turned out to be a tape of an interview he had done. Because of the actions of Conway and his friends, we had to live with fear and even today, people in the UK are living with the effects of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Confession

In his book, Conway writes about his participation in bank raids and gun battles and his encounters with leading IRA figures. He refers to Gerry Adams as “a mendacious, lying bastard”. Conway  told the Irish Independent newspaper: “For much of its existence, Sinn Fein was a support group for the IRA, a junior and not terribly effective part of the republican movement. Though always controlled from a distance by the IRA, the IRA leadership decided in the late 1970s that the party would come under IRA control at every level.” This sounds similar to the relationship between the LTTE and the TNA.

adams

Conor Cruise O’Brien pointed out 30 years ago that those who carried out the Easter Rising in 1916 believed they were entitled, although they were but a small unelected group of conspirators in a democratic country, to stage a revolution in which many innocent people were killed. “Armed struggle” generally means  fanatics killing innocents by remote control. Revolutionary leaders presume a lot. Pearse might nobly say: “I care not though I were to live but one day and one night, if only my fame and my deeds live after me”. The majority of the casualties in the Easter Rising were civilians. Did Prabhakaran ever ask Tamils civilians  if they wanted to be martyrs? Was there a referendum on martyrdom, a focus group?

Despite the undoubted success of the Good Friday Agreement a handful of unelected die-hards do not want peace. They want to create new martyrs for Ireland. Today, after so much bloodshed, Ireland is still not united. Today, after so much bloodshed, there is no Eelam.

How Sorry Is Conway?

Maxine Hambleton’s family and the campaign group Justice4the21 met Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper last week to ask for her support for new inquests. They have also met Home Secretary Theresa May and are preparing a case for the European Parliament. Inquests were opened days after the bombings and closed in 1975 without hearing evidence, because of the guilty verdicts on the Birmingham Six.

While Conway was heading the IRA’s intelligence department, the Provisionals killed 140 people. Conway said in an interview: “I have no doubt that actions of mine resulted in serious harm to people and worse, and I regret that. I very much regret it in view of the outcome… The IRA has disappeared into history having taken a position on how to achieve Irish unity which is identical to that of the British government it fought against for 25 years and that is not a good outcome,” ”

Julie-and-Brian-Hambleton

Julie Hambleton is asking why this “freedom fighter” is not questioned about his role in the murder of her sister following his admissions in his book.

 

The Boy-Men of Sri Lanka

I posted my first article on Open Salon in August 2008. Kerry Lauerman himself made the first comment.He said: “Thanks for such an interesting piece, a vivid little look into SL culture.”

 

In his 1996 novel ‘The Road to Notown’, Michael Foley described ‘the Terrible Grey-haired Boy-Men of Ireland, a group of fortyish men who live with their mothers and spend their days in armchairs playing cards and talking sport’

 

The Sri Lankan boy-men are not grey. Fashionable young men fight ageing by shaving their skulls completely but the more conservative resort to a Japanese product called Bigen, which comes in two shades, black and black/brown, to enhance nature and sustain an illusion of everlasting youth.

 

In Sri Lanka, one sees more ill-fitting wigs on men than in other countries. The wigs are always jet-black but sometimes the bearer’s eyebrows are of a different hue. When Professor Mohan Munasinghe shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, Sri Lanka was proud enough of the native son to publish endless pictures of him in which he seemed to be carrying a dead animal on his intellectual dome. One paper accompanied its picture with the caption ‘Munasinghe wears many hats.’

 

The womenfolk of the boy-men are extremely indulgent to their brats. As the fat lump sits helplessly at the table, his mother or wife will proudly tell visitors that he would have no idea how to make himself a cup of coffee or butter a slice of bread. The son/husband will smile smugly at this compliment.

In Ireland there has been a tradition of boy-men remaining bachelors into old age or forever. Their Sri Lankan equivalents tend to marry young but do not change their ways. Often it will be the mother who finds a spouse for the son. This is not quite the western concept of arranged Asian marriages. The happy couple will have some choice in the matter. Sometimes people will refer to a marriage as ‘a love match’, which suggests that there is some element of coercion in the usual arrangements.

 

 

The normal situation is probably more to do with the passivity and indolence and the general  immaturity of the male of the species and the assertiveness and protectiveness of the Sri Lankan materfamilias. You do not find many middle class Sri Lankan women who conform to the western male fantasy of the submissive Asian babe but that subject is potential fodder for another article. ‘Bossy women in saris’ would be a more accurate stereotype. Do not forget that the world’s first woman prime minister was Mrs Bandaranaike in Sri Lanka and her daughter later became president.

 

 

 

You see schoolboys in the streets with uniforms whiter than the soul of the Immaculate Conception. You can bet your sweet bippy that these young men played no part in achieving that crisply ironed whiteness. In addition to being mammy’s boys, Sri Lankan males have servants to cater to their whims and to bully.

 

 

I have personally witnessed boy-men bellowing for servants to rush from distant rooms where they are immersed in some awful drudgery to come and pass a glass of water, which is just beyond the reach of the podgy boy-man arm.

 

 

There is a species of boy-men even in the lowest of classes. Poor village women and tea pluckers talk about their sons as if they have some kind of physical or mental disability when the truth seems to be that they would rather not work if their mothers or wives can support them.

 

 

Many village men sit around all day drinking kasippu and smoking bidis while the wives and mothers pluck tea or break rocks. One often sees women doing backbreaking work quarrying rock or mending roads while men stand by ‘supervising’.

 

 

Most village and plantation households cook on fires and it is the women who scrabble around in the hot sun or torrential rain for kindling and firewood.

 

 

A woman who works for us supports her own family and several families of relatives of her husband on what we pay her. The husband works spasmodically because he falls out with everybody.

 

 

Men of his mentality are somewhat torn because they would like the wives to stay at home all the time to cater for their every whim but are not prepared to go out and earn money for themselves.

 

 

There is a huge problem of alcoholism and domestic violence. Again, there is scope for a separate article on this subject.

 

 

Foley wrote: ‘Although the English caste system has been slavishly copied, dislike of the English and the illusion of independence make it impossible to acknowledge class distinctions in Ireland.’  In Sri Lanka, social distinctions are based on school, often a parody of the English upper class schools, or International Schools, or influential contacts.

 

 

Employment very often depends on social and political contacts or sporting prowess rather than ability, which does not help the efficient running of the government or the economy.

 

 

Some of the Sri Lankan boy-men have influential fathers who have become rich through commerce or inheritance or grubbing in the trough of politics. These boy-men do not just have maids to feed them and clothe them and wipe their bottoms, they have bodyguards with guns paid for by the taxpayer.

 

 

One former cabinet minister and party-political yo-yo, has an errant son who booked the huge Royal Suite at the Galle Face Hotel on the Colombo Indian Ocean sea front for a New Year’s Eve party. Although he was fondling the current girl friend, when he saw a former girl friend dancing with another man, all hell broke loose. The girls fought each other, Junior beat the ex-girl friend and his goons waded in firing their weapons. Then about 20 police arrived waving T-56 automatic assault rifles to protect the VIPs.

 

 

The son of another cabinet minister was asked to leave a Colombo nightclub. He took out a pistol and placed a single bullet from the magazine on a waiter’s tray and said ‘Ask your manager if he would prefer to have this inside him.’

 

 

Another minister still in the government, despite universal loathing  (whose own exploits will be recounted elsewhere- they include squeezing the testicles of a fellow MP, who also happened to be a Buddhist monk, so hard that the poor saddhu had to go to hospital), has a son who is a boy-man but not grey. He has been described as bleached-blond, muscle-bound and tattooed, a typical member of the pseudo-aristocracy of mammy-daddy boys. At Colombo’s Irish pub, Clancy’s, the bouncers frisked him and told him he could not come in with his handgun.

 

The next night he returned accompanied by government SUVs and three-wheelers full of men with firearms, clubs and knives. Some say daddy was along for the ride. The mob trashed the club, Sopranos, next door to Clancy’s and went through the place stealing mobile phones from customers.

 

 

There is a dynastic element to Sri Lankan politics. This could be the future talent that the nation can look forward to as its rulers. Will one of these Prince Hals transform himself into a Henry V? Will one of these delinquents achieve the statesmanlike qualities we all admire so much in George W Bush, who similarly had a troubled youth?

 

Should we worry about cholesterol?

A version of this article appeared in Lakbima News on Sunday October 10 2010.

 

I was surprised when I first arrived in Sri Lanka to hear a dinner-party guest discussing her bowel movements and haemorrhoid surgery. I soon learnt that Sri Lankans of all classes were somewhere on a spectrum between health-conscious to hypochondriac. Everyone “knows their numbers” as they say in the States. A conversational gambit might be, “I have cholesterol. How high is yours?”

I was once a small part of the Study of Health and Stress carried out by Professor Sir Michael Marmot at London University. My cholesterol levels were “at the high end of the normal range”. Medication was not suggested. In London I was advised to avoid cashew nuts, avocadoes and prawns. In Sri Lanka I was told to eat as much of them as I could.

Why has cholesterol become such a villain? As Jenifer Anniston used to say: “Here comes the science”. Cholesterol is a natural substance produced by the liver to provide structure to animal cells. The brain is 70% fats and cholesterol.

High density lipoprotein (HDL) carries cholesterol from peripheral tissues in the arterial walls to the liver. From the liver it is excreted with bile. Cholesterol is transported from the liver to peripheral tissues. When cells need extra cholesterol they call for low density lipoprotein (LDL) to deliver the cholesterol into the cell’s interior. Up to 80% of cholesterol in the blood is transported by LDL. Why then does the common wisdom condemn LDL as “bad” and deem HDL “good”?

Perhaps some mental confusion has arisen because of a misunderstanding of the term “risk factor”. Risk factors are not the same as causes. Gary Younge wrote in the Guardian: “Because two things are co-related it does not mean that one causes the other. Shark attacks and ice cream sales both rise in the summer. That does not mean that ice cream attracts sharks or people react to fear of sharks by eating more ice cream”.

If heart attacks happen more often to people who have high LDL, smoke, are overweight and suffer from stress it would be wise to give up smoking, lose weight and relax. It would not be wise to take drugs to attack LDL while leading an unhealthy life style.

In 1953, Ancel Keys published a paper in which he argued that five times as many Americans as Italians died from heart attacks because Italians ate healthier food. Using data from six countries he claimed to prove the dangers of animal fat. If he had studied all 22 countries for which he had data the results would have been different. Even within Italy there were differences in the rate of deaths from heart attacks, even among people following the same diet.

The Framingham, Massachusetts, study is often used to argue the case for lowering cholesterol. The reality is that almost half of those who had a heart attack in Framingham had low cholesterol. Women with low cholesterol were as likely to die as those with high levels.

Professor Donald Light says 85% of new drugs offer few benefits, but risk serious harm . He cited the marketing of statins. Sponsored researchers and writers converted the complex relationships between heart disease and saturated fats into the simple message: “cholesterol kills”.

The first statin was launched in 1987. Pfizer’s Lipitor achieved sales of $10 billion a year, becoming the world’s best selling prescription drug.. Sales have soared further to around $27 billion because of huge increases in those with “high” cholesterol. In 1990, official guidelines meant that 13 million Americans “needed” statins. In 2001, “high” was redefined and the market increased to 36 million. Five of the fourteen authors of the new definition were paid by Big Pharma. In 2004, a further redefinition expanded the market to 40 million. Eight of the nine experts on that panel were taking money from the drug companies.

UK government heart advisor Professor Roger Boyle suggested every man over 50 and every woman over 60 should take a daily statin. This approach has been taken to ridiculous extremes with some “experts” recommending that statins be put in the public water supply. The American Journal of Cardiology recently published an article suggesting that statins should be offered in complimentary packets with burgers.

There can be side-effects from statins. They have been associated with pancreatitis, tendon problems, depression, sleep disturbances, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, cataracts, osteoporosis, peripheral neuropathy, hemorrhagic stroke and rare cases of interstitial lung disease.

Rhabdomyolysis is a very serious condition which may account for a quarter of cases of acute renal failure, and may have a mortality rate as high as 20%. It causes vomiting, confusion, coma, abnormal heart rate and rhythms and absence of urine production, usually about 12–24 hours after the initial muscle damage.

Dr H Brian Brewer Jr, a senior scientist at the NIH (National Institute of Health), wrote: “No cases of rhabdomyolysis occurred in patients receiving [Crestor] up to 40 milligrams”. The truth was that eight cases of rhabdomyolysis were reported during clinical trials of Crestor. The LA Times obtained FDA records under the Freedom of information Act. These records show that one patient got rhabdomyolysis while taking only ten milligrams. FDA records show that 78 patients got rhabdomyolysis taking Crestor during its first year on the market and two died. Baycol was withdrawn after at least 31 reports of fatal rhabdomyolysis.

While making recommendations on behalf of the NIH Brewer was being paid by the companies that sell the drugs.

Low cholesterol in itself can be harmful. It affects serotonin, a substance involved in mood regulation. Canadian researchers found that those with the lowest cholesterol had more than six times the risk of committing suicide as did those in the highest quarter. Dozens of studies also support a connection between low or lowered cholesterol levels and violent behavior. Low LDL has been linked to Parkinsonism.

All drugs mess with the kidneys and the liver. Why take that risk if you are not ill? Statins work by blocking 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase, an enzyme in the liver. Unfortunately statins cannot be specifically targeted on cholesterol. As collateral damage, statins inhibit other things the body needs. They deplete the coenzyme CoQ10, which is essential for energy requirements of cells. High levels of CoQ10 are found in healthy heart tissue. Statins, by reducing CoQ10 have been linked to an increase risk of congestive heart failure. The only cure is a heart transplant.

The Hippocratic Oath enjoins doctors to do no harm. They should not perform unnecessary surgery or take unnecessary risks by prescribing treatment of dubious value. Under the spurious banner of “prevention” harm is being done, anxiety is being created, resources are being misdirected and fortunes are being made.

I am not a doctor so don’t let what I say persuade you to stop taking statins. Different doctors have different views. You must decide for yourself which doctors to believe

Thinking about the “G”-word

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on March 16 2015

http://test.ceylontoday.lk/51-87480-news-detail-thinking-about-the-g-word.html

 

Colman's Column3

“’When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’”

The purpose of language is to convey ideas as succinctly and accurately as possible under the aegis of a common understanding. Definition is crucial. We must define our terms logically, sensibly and consistently if we are to have a productive dialogue – otherwise we are talking at cross-purposes.

Way back in the mists of last century, I worked in the child protection field. The NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) sent me a report alleging that 50 % of girls and 25% of boys under the age of 16 in the UK had been victims of child sexual abuse. This was shocking news. When I analysed the raw data of the NSPCC survey, a different picture emerged. One is horrified at the idea of innocent children being raped. However, one might be less upset at girls encountering a flasher or hormonal boys seeking out pornography. The NSPCC’s definition of sexual abuse of children encompassed consensual sexual relations between teenagers below the legal age of consent and obscene language. The NGO was pursuing its fund-raising agenda by propagating sensational statistics, which covered a wide continuum of behaviour. Reading the small print one could see that: “Sexual abuse takes many forms: explicit sexual talk; showing pornography; sexual touching; lack of privacy to bath or undress; masturbation; and sexual intercourse.”

The Northern Provincial Council passed a resolution alleging that successive national governments of Sri Lanka have been following a policy of genocide against Tamils in Sri Lanka.

What is genocide? The etymology is hybrid, coming from genos (Greek for family, tribe, or race) and -cide (Latin for killing). Has the entire race of Tamils in Sri Lanka been killed? Has there been any official plan or policy to exterminate Tamils in Sri Lanka? Is Humpty Dumpty a member of the NPC?

The word “genocide” did not exist until 1943. This does not mean that there was no genocide before that date. Many Irish people believe that Oliver Cromwell engaged in genocide. The ground for Cromwell’s actions was prepared under the Tudors in a manifesto written by the poet Edmund Spenser. In his “View of the Present State of Ireland” (1596), Spenser argued that starvation was the best way to control the fractious Irish. Spenser described how the starving Irish population would “consume themselves and devour one another”.

The Irish quite naturally resisted . Cromwell re-conquered Ireland with a death toll of possibly 40% of the entire Irish population. There was wholesale burning of crops and killing of civilians and many were sent to the West Indies as slaves. A recent book, God’s Executioner by Mícheál Ó Siochrú, is a forceful restatement of the prosecution case that Cromwell’s campaign was genocidal. Cromwell’s programme achieved the almost complete dispossession of the Catholic landed elite. The native ruling classes were destroyed and replaced by the Protestant Ascendancy.

There was a plan. Hitler, Mengele and Baldur von Shirach might have learnt a thing or two from Sir William Petty (1623-87) – mathematician, mechanic, physician, cartographer and statistician – who devised a public-private partnership for “fusing science and policy”. Petty explored the idea of breeding the “meer Irish” out of existence by deporting 10,000 Irishwomen of marriageable age to England every year and replacing them with a like number of Englishwomen.”The whole Work of natural Transmutation and Union would in four or five years be accomplished.” Jonathan Swift wrote A Modest Proposal to lampoon Petty’s ideas. Swift suggests that impoverished Irish might profit by selling their surplus children as food for the rich.

Because of the famine that followed the potato blight of 1845, Ireland’s population fell by 25%.  One million people died of starvation and typhus. Millions emigrated over following decades. Some 2.6 million Irish entered overcrowded workhouses where more than 200,000 people died. In his book Three Famines, Thomas Keneally, the Australian novelist who wrote Schindler’s List, quotes a contemporary observer: “Insane mothers began to eat their young children who died of famine before them; and still fleets of ships were sailing with every tide, carrying Irish cattle and corn to England”. The 1911 Census showed that Ireland’s population had fallen to 4.4 million, about half of its peak population.  Broadcaster and historian Robert Kee suggested that the Irish Famine of 1845 is “comparable” in its force on popular national consciousness to that of the “final solution on the Jews,” and that it is not infrequently thought that the Famine was something very like, “a form of genocide engineered by the English against the Irish people”.

Kee mentioned the horror that is the benchmark for genocide in the 20th Century. There is no doubt that Hitler had long had a plan to exterminate all the Jews in Europe and he succeeded in killing six million of them. It is an affront to logic to give the name of genocide both to what happened to the Jews under the Nazis and to what happened to Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Raphael Lemkin (June 24, 1900 – August 28, 1959) coined the word “genocide”. Lemkin was a Jewish Polish lawyer who immigrated to the United States in 1941. He first used the word in print in Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation – Analysis of Government – Proposals for Redress (1944), and defined it as “the destruction of a nation or an ethnic group.”

By Lemkin’s original simple definition, it would seem obvious that many Sri Lankan Tamils are using the word genocide incorrectly and mischievously. Whatever heinous crimes may have been perpetrated against Tamils in Sri Lankan the “ethnic group” has clearly not been “destroyed”. According to the 2012 census, there were 2,270,924 Sri Lankan Tamils in Sri Lanka, 11.21% of the population. Sri Lankan Tamils constitute an overwhelming majority of the population in the Northern Province and are the largest ethnic group in the Eastern Province. The current Chief Justice is Tamil and Tamils occupy many senior positions.

Lemkin took an interest in the subject of genocide while studying the killing by Turkish forces of 1.5 million Armenians. In 1913, a triumvirate of Young Turks, consisting of Mehmed Talaat, Ismail Enver and Ahmed Djemal, assumed dictatorial powers and concocted a plan to  create a new Turkish empire, a “great and eternal land” called Turan with one language and one religion. On 24 April 1915, Ottoman authorities rounded up and arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. There had been prior preparations. In fact, one argument for defining this as genocide is that it had been brewing for at least a century. In 1913, Turks disarmed the entire Armenian population. About forty thousand Armenian men served in the Turkish Army. In the autumn and winter of 1914, all their weapons were confiscated and they were employed as slave labour  to build roads or  used as pack animals. There was a very high death rate. Along the way, they were frequently set upon by Kurdish tribesmen, who had been given license to loot and rape. Kurds are seen today as victims of the Turkish state but they played a major role in the persecution of Armenians.

It is still dangerous in modern Turkey to talk about the genocide. Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk was accused of having violated Section 301 of the Turkish penal code, which outlaws “insulting Turkishness.” An optimistic feature in today’s Turkey is that many non-Armenians are prepared to speak out and many Kurds in particular are taking reconciliatory measures to atone for the crimes of their ancestors.

The simple definition of genocide – the attempt to exterminate an entire race-  has been expanded to cover a continuum that undermines the usefulness of genocide as a concept. Tamils who support the NPC resolution say that it fits the UN convention of 1948. According to that  genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group:

  • killing members of the group;
  • causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to bring about its physical destruction;
  • imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • forcibly transferring children of this group to another group.

 

To say that the whole GOSL campaign against the LTTE was a genocide against the Tamil people is just plain wrong. To say that genocide has been going on since 1948 is ludicrous. It does not help victims of real child sexual abuse to bump up the statistics by including minor offences. While dirty talk might be unseemly and inappropriate, it is not the moral equivalent of raping a baby.  Action should be taken against sexual crimes and against violations of human rights. However, racial discrimination is not on a par with the extermination of a race. It does not help victims (Sinhalese and Muslim as well as Tamil) of the GOSL to pretend that Sri Lanka has had a Hitler or a Stalin or a Mao or a Pol Pot or a Cromwell or an Ahmed Djemal. (Although a successful Tamil businessman spoke to me vehemently in those terms about Dickie Jayewardene.)

Martin Shaw is a research professor of international relations at the Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals and Sussex University best known for his sociological work on war, genocide and global politics. He is a frequent contributor to the website Open Democracy. I asked Professor Shaw about the question of genocide in Sri Lanka but he hedged and prevaricated. Commenters on Open Democracy have been critical of his writings on genocide. “What Shaw and his post-modernist ilk contend is that we should move in the opposite direction and expand definitions to points ad infinitum.”

Dr Rhadhika Coomaraswamy has been described as a brilliant scholar and there is no doubt that she is a doughty champion of human rights. She was the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict until 13 July 2012.  She wrote in response to the NPC resolution: “some Tamil nationalist lawyer has suddenly woken up to the fact that if we use the “G” word then there is a legal case for a separate state. This of course is a delusion of theoretical lawyers… Accountability for war crimes and human rights violations is a completely different frame of action than the claim for a separate state”. She continued: “We as a community have had enough of all this name-calling- genocide, traitor, nation- all that is just unnecessary hyperbole at this time in our history. There are so many problems that have to be solved through discussion and dialogue that affect people in their everyday life”.

Dr Coomaraswamy argues that it is time to abandon the victim mentality that lies behind the NPC resolution: “Let us regain our self -respect and our self-confidence, stand tall, look our Sinhalese and Muslim brothers and sisters in the eye, start acting as their equals and begin to build lasting partnerships.”

 

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