Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Choosing Martyrdom?

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday March 252012

Two months before my father’s birth, Irish rebels fought the British Empire. My father encouraged my interest in Irish history and told me about “800 years of British oppression” and the genocide caused by Cromwell and later by the free trade dogma that allowed the 1845 famine to be so lethal.

In my callow youth I wondered whether, had I lived in Ireland in the 1920s, I would have been out there fighting the British. However, even reading, when I was a child, mainstream history and popular biographies about the Easter Rising, I realised that the Easter rebels had no popular support. The interpretation of this used to be that the general populace was feckless and needed waking up by the sacrifice of these brave men. Look at the shiftless Dublin jackeens in Sean O’Casey’s plays.

Pearse and his colleagues believed they were entitled, although they were but a small, unelected group of conspirators in a democratic country, to stage a revolution in 1916 in which innocent people were killed.

On St Patrick’s Day, I posted an article on Groundviews examining the idea of rebellion and martyrdom. I was prompted to write the article by disturbing comments on Colombo Telegraph by one ‘Thanga’ glorifying Prabhakaran: “Prabhakaran is the only leader whose birthday is celebrated right around the globe in a grand scale! Prabhakaran was a brave, selfless and dedicated leader who lived by example. A leader who never slept on a mat or used a pillow!” For some Tamils, Prabhakaran had the status of a demi-god. A Tamil Catholic priest, Fr S. J. Emmanuel, compared him to Jesus. As recently as May 2011, in Tamil Nadu, MDMK chief Vaiko was saying the war for Eelam was not over; Prabhakaran was not dead and would emerge from hiding at the right time. According to Victor Rajakulendran, the LTTE remains a shining example, a ‘good history,’ for all Sri Lankan Tamils to follow.

http://groundviews.org/2012/03/17/martyrology-martyrdom-rebellion-terrorism/

 
One commenter wrote, seemingly approvingly, about a ‘national consciousness’ in which the abuses of the past are not forgotten but remain vibrant and alive in the form of a collective memory. Another seemed to approve of the use of martyrdom as a reward offered “to the young recruit if they die during the battle against the oppressors because they do not have anything else to offer”. Another said: “The IRA and the LTTE had to make the best of whatever resources they had.” The best resources the Real IRA have are about 150 volunteers and bombs with which to kill tourists and pregnant women.

 
The leading figure in the 1916 rising was Padraic Pearse, a poet and playwright, founder of a number of Gaelic schools. Pearse welcomed martyrdom: “I care not though I were to live but one day and one night, if only my fame and my deeds live after me”. “We might make mistakes in the beginning and shoot the wrong people: but bloodshed is a cleansing and sanctifying thing”. He developed a sacrificial notion that his cause was comparable with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Pearse wrote about the beauty of boys dying bravely in their prime, before the shoddy compromises of adult life corrupted them.

 
The logistics of the Easter Rising were designed to maximise ‘bloody sacrifice’ of civilians. Buildings were chosen for occupation to maximise injury to persons and property.

By the time Pearse surrendered after six days, only 64 rebels had been killed (including 15 executed). In the World War, 25,000 Irishmen died fighting as members of the British Army. The majority of the killed and wounded were civilians. Both sides, British and rebel, shot civilians deliberately, on occasion, when they refused to obey orders such as to stop at checkpoints. All 16 police fatalities and 22 of the British soldiers killed were Irishmen. Rebel and civilian casualties were 318 dead and 2,217 wounded.

The rebels who were executed were regarded as martyrs and prayed to as well as for. A tradition of hunger striking meant there were Provisional IRA martyrs up to the 1980s.The death of Bobby Sands in 1981 resulted in a new surge of IRA recruitment and activity. His sister Bernadette and her husband Michael McKevitt founded the Real IRA, who refused to accept the Good Friday Agreement. Sands’s sister said: “Bobby did not die for cross-border bodies with executive powers. He did not die for nationalists to be equal British citizens within the Northern Ireland state”.

On 15 August 1998, 29 people died and 220 were injured as a result of a Real IRA bomb at Omagh, County Tyrone. The victims included Protestants, Catholics, a Mormon, nine children, a woman pregnant with twins, Irish tourists and two Spanish tourists. Bobby may have made a conscious decision to “die for Ireland”. The victims of Omagh did not.

 
Former Provo, Danny Morrison, explained in a Pearse documentary Fanatic Heart, that Pearse’s rhetoric was useful to the Provos when they were making war, but is inconvenient when they are trying to make peace. Did the 1916 Rising set an unfortunate and tragic precedent? Omagh is a result keeping past abuses alive in the national consciousness. Omagh represents an example of using whatever resources are available in the fight against the oppressor.

How will the Real IRA be celebrating the 96th anniversary of the Easter Rising? As I write, car bombs are being found all over Ireland.

 

 

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/feature-issues/item/4309-choosing-martyrdom?.html#sthash.oK6Kmecu.dpuf

 

Corruption

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday April 1 2012

Although patriotic Sri Lankans might like to boast that they are the best in the world at the corruption game, there are lessons to be learnt from other countries. Somalia holds up the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index at number 182.  Sri Lanka is at number 86 (improving on a previous 91), somewhat worse than Serbia, Panama and Jamaica. I am not saying mutts like Somalia can teach us anything. Lessons can, however, be learnt from nations who are sophisticated enough to climb to respectable positions on the index.

In 2010, Ireland was at number 14 and the UK at number 20. The 2011 table shows the UK (now number 16) has improved in honesty and Ireland (number 19) has worsened. The US is at number 24.

Only this week, news came out that Micheál Martin, the current leader of Fianna Fáil, the party, which dominated Irish politics for most of the life of the Republic, has called on his predecessor, Bertie Ahern, to be expelled from the party.
Bertie’s mentor, Charles Haughey, enjoyed an opulent lifestyle on his modest salary as Taoiseach (or Irish Prime Minister, pronounced ‘tea-shock’). He had a fine art collection and wine cellar, racehorses, owned at least one island, a helicopter and enjoyed the services of a voluptuous but garrulous mistress. Retail tycoon Ben Dunne gave Charlie millions, prompting the T-shirt slogan: “Ben there. Dunne that. Bought the Taoiseach”. A culture of impunity has rewarded corrupt politicians, bankers and builders. Ireland shares with Sri Lanka a kind of cronyism. ‘Gombeenism’ describes the kind of parish-pump politics in which those elected to be legislators devote themselves to self-aggrandisement and bestowing favours,  rather than honestly representing their constituents’ interests.

Fianna Fáil was practically wiped out at the last general election. The last Fianna Fáil PM, Brian Cowan, liked to refer to himself affectionately as Biffo, Big Ignorant Fat F…er from Offaly. He has lost any affection the public felt for him, and has apologised for his role in ruining the economy. The culprits continued to receive generous pensions and expenses.

Martin’s condemnation of Bertie came after a report said, “Corruption in Irish political life was both endemic and systemic. It affected every level of government, from some holders of top ministerial offices to some local councillors, and its existence was widely known and widely tolerated.” The report found Mr. Ahern failed to “truthfully account” for the source of bank account lodgements and   confirmed the former Fianna Fáil leader’s personal behaviour had fallen short of the standard expected of holders of high office.

The report referred to was by the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments, commonly known as the Mahon Tribunal. As well as accusing Ahern of untruthfulness, the report found former European Commissioner Pádraig Flynn behaved corruptly, and said another former Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, had abused his power.
Martin made sure the other Irish parties were not left out of the condemnation. Current PM, Enda Kenny, refused to take any action when told a member of his Fine Gael party had “sought a bribe of £250,000”.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams claimed institutionalised sleaze and corruption had been rife in Ireland.  “It was not just political life that was corrupt,” he added. “So, too, was the business elite.” Adams said institutional corruption and gombeenism (a Sri Lankan equivalent of the Gombeen Man would be the mudalali involved in politics) were part and parcel of British colonial rule on the island and the practices survived and thrived in the post-colonial period.
Martin described Sinn Féin’s “embrace of double standards” as “particularly brazen”. During the period investigated by Mahon, “Sinn Féin’s movement killed more than 200 people, kneecapped and exiled many more and ran this island’s largest racketeering, kidnapping and bank-robbing network”.

Some Sri Lankans have a touching faith in the institutions of western countries. When one points to the shortcomings of other countries, one is told that there is at least accountability for wrong-doing, unlike the impunity that is characteristic of Sri Lanka. Taking Ireland as an example, one can take comfort in the fact that there is an Act of the Oireachtas (parliament), establishing Tribunals of Inquiry to look into matters of urgent public importance. Tribunals are obliged to report their findings to the Oireachtas. They have the power to enforce the attendance and examination of witnesses and the production of documents relevant to the work in hand.

By the end of 2000, there were six tribunals. According to historian Diarmaid Ferriter: “Tribunals were an indictment of the lack of investigation at home into these issues. It often took outsiders to unfold the truth, as with the exposure by Susan O’Keefe of the BBC of the beef industry in the 1991 documentary “Where’s the Beef?” O’Keefe concluded that there was in Irish society too much indulgence of unethical behaviour and that a culture of silence prevailed. These tribunal inquiries tended to go on for a long time (Mahon started in 1997), the details are very complicated and they are very costly to the taxpayer.

The amounts brown-enveloped by corrupt businessmen and politicians are trivial compared to the amounts legally made by lawyers at the tribunals. Barristers’ daily tribunal rates were €2,500 (£1,700 LKR 432,000). Senior counsel Patrick Quinn earned more than €50,000 from other  State work. In a year, he was paid almost €500,000 for working part-time at the inquiry. He earned a total of €5,273,521.17 (911,223,388 Sri Lanka Rupees) in fees over the decade he has worked at the tribunal. Legal team costs for 2011 were €950,000. Total legal costs have reached almost €50 million (8,639,610,596 Sri Lanka Rupees).

It is not a function of Tribunals to administer justice, their work is solely inquisitorial. Wrongdoers can take comfort in the fact that the outcome of tribunals would rarely be prosecution.

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/news-features/item/4584-

corruption.html#sthash.7yvkong8.dpuf

Political Corruption UK –Style

 

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday April 15 2012

 

 

In the Labour landslide of 1997, little Alistair Burt lost his parliamentary seat of Bury North, which he had first won in 1983. He lost to David Chaytor who was later jailed for fiddling his expenses. Burt returned to parliament in 2001, taking over the safe Tory seat of Bedfordshire North East from Sir Nicholas Lyell.

Burt had his own problems in the expenses scandal. He seems to be rather fond of little bites. Between 2004 and 2005, he claimed more than £13,000 in hotel expenses. He regularly claimed for alcohol and snacks from mini bars of hotels such as the Savoy. In March 2004, he claimed £2 for a packet of Pringles, £3 for a bag of mixed nuts. The following month he claimed £3.55 for a ‘night beverage’ and £6 for another two bags of mixed nuts.
Burt agreed to repay a total of £229.24 for hotel sundries. “I do accept that the climate has changed, and although I thought these were perfectly fair subsistence charges I will repay them immediately,” he said. “I am genuinely sorry for any error made, in relation to any claim, which is considered excessive.” How can a man looking after 30 countries at the Foreign Office have time to fill in a form to claim a refund for peanuts?

Burt over-claimed payments for his London flat by £200 per month for five months in 2006. He apologised for what he described as an ‘oversight’. However, he said that because he had not claimed for food during the period, he should not need to repay the money. He was let off and allowed to keep the GBP 1,000. The taxpayer-funded rent at his latest flat comes to £1,890 per month. For more on Burt see:
http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=28632.

The venal and venial fiddling by MPs revealed by the Daily Telegraph is shameful, but more worrying than politicians lining their own pockets, is the systemic undermining of democracy by lobbyists. The London Sunday Times set up a sting operation against Peter Cruddas, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, forcing his resignation. He was secretly filmed offering influence over policy in return for donations to party funds.

Voters are not getting what they voted for. They are getting what wealthy donors want. The case of NHS ‘reforms’ is a prime example. In the early 90s when Kenneth Clarke, now Justice Minister in the coalition government, was Health Minister the government was trying to privatise everything to endow the supposedly entrepreneurial sector with a licence to print money exploiting what had been regarded as public utilities. There would be no risk in their investment as guarantees against failure would be provided by the taxpayer.  New Labour continued privatisation of the NHS by stealth. Health Secretary Alan Milburn became an adviser to Bridgepoint Capital, a venture capital firm backing private health companies in Britain and works 18 days a year advising Cinven, a private equity, which owns 37 private hospitals. In January 2008, it was announced that another Labour Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, had been appointed ‘special consultant’ to the world’s largest chemists, Boots. Hewitt also became a ‘special adviser’ to Cinven.

After Labour left office, Hewitt was secretly filmed by Channel 4 News claiming she could influence policy in return for cash payments. Not one of the 20 politicians approached in the sting put the phone down. The amounts asked were so similar, wrote Philip Clothier in Prospect magazine, “£3000-£5000 a day plus — that it almost felt these politicians had agreed a rate among themselves beforehand, or at least that such a rate was now deemed commonplace in Westminster…. The more I watched and listened, the more it seemed reasonable to conclude that our candidates had fallen out of love with politics… Patricia Hewitt’s monthly diary was assessed in the numbers of days that she was away from Westminster rather than at it. She fitted her interview with us in between two votes at Westminster. .. In their attempts to show off their access to all areas, they painted an image of Westminster as one big club where the members just pretend to be different for the public’s sake.”

At the last UK election, David Cameron recognised that the public did not want any further privatisation of the NHS and neither did the medical profession and promised no further reorganisation. Private health care organisations had donated more than £750,000 to the Conservatives since David Cameron became leader. John Nash, private equity tycoon had given £21,000 to health secretary Andrew Lansley’s personal office. Despite his election promises, when Cameron became PM a Health Bill was proposed, which meant further privatisation.

Tory peer Lord Stanley Fink (Fink by name, fink by nature) replaced Cruddas as the party’s principal treasurer. Known as the ‘godfather’ of the hedge fund industry, Fink has himself donated more than £2 million to the Conservative Party. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ)found that hedge funds, financiers and private equity firms contributed more than a quarter of all the Tories’ private donations, with three of the City’s hedge fund giants, Michael Farmer, Andrew Law and Fink together contributing £636,300. The general public can have no love for predatory capitalists who left the banks in ruins and demanded taxpayer support. They would not vote for these crooks. That carries no weight with governments.

 

 

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/feature-viewpoint/item/5002-political-corruption-united-kingdom-style.html#sthash.JzDfOGU2.dpuf

 

Austerity and Hypocrisy

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday April 8 2012

 

There have recently been many references in the press, both in Sri Lanka and the UK, to Marie Antoinette. She was the wife of Louis XVI of France who was deposed by the revolting peasants in 1792. Nine months after the execution of Louis, Marie Antoinette was herself tried, convicted of treason and guillotined.

The French people had at first been charmed by her personality and beauty but  came to loathe  her, accusing “L’Autre-chienne” (“Autrichienne” meaning Austrian (woman) and “Autre-chienne” meaning Other Bitch) of being  a promiscuous, callous spendthrift, and of harbouring sympathies for France’s enemies, particularly Austria, her country of origin.

Contemporary sources, such as Mary Wolstencraft and Thomas Jefferson, place the blame for the French Revolution and the subsequent reign of terror on Marie Antoinette. This view is summed up by the phrase “let them eat cake”. There is no evidence that she ever uttered this phrase; It originally appeared in Book VI of the first part (finished in 1767, published in 1782) of Rousseau’s putative autobiography, Les Confessions. “Enfin je me rappelai le pis-aller d’une grande princesse à qui l’on disait que les paysans n’avaient pas de pain, et qui répondit : Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”When told the peasants had no bread the princess said ‘Why don’t they eat cake?’

Whenever I visit my local Sathosa, I see a framed photograph of Bandula Gunawardena. Judging from that picture, I would guess that he is not being compared to Marie Antoinette on grounds of charm, beauty or personality. It’s to do with the cake-eating thing. Minister Gunawardena apparently asserted that a family of three could live on  Rs. 7,500 a month. UNP MP Dr. Harsha de Silva responded: “Minister Bandula Gunawardene’s challenge for a debate on this matter is irrelevant, childish and a waste of time.  It is of no consequence to the people of this country that certain ministers and senior officials of this government have become the laughing stock, but what is unpardonable is that the unwise actions of such people bringing misery to the population.”

Over in the UK, The Sun newspaper, frothing for revenge over the Tories’ failure to protect Murdoch, described Chancellor George Osborne as the Marie Antoinette of the 21st century. Marie Antoinette has come to symbolise the indifference of the rulers to the sufferings of ordinary people.

 
Throughout the hard times of the 1970s, British citizens were exhorted by governments, both Labour and Conservative, to tighten belts and accept wages that did not keep up with inflation.

There was no evidence that the austerity was being shared across all classes. On 31 December 1973, Edward Heath’s Tory government enforced a three-day working week to preserve dwindling fuel supplies. Electricity was switched off on a rota basis between seven a.m. and midnight. Television companies switched off at 10.30pm. Energy Secretary, Patrick Jenkin, won notoriety for advising the nation to “clean our teeth in the dark”. His own house was photographed with all lights blazing.

In the UK currently, the question is not whether the masses should eat cake, but whether they can afford to eat Cornish pasties. The current coalition government have been savagely cutting public services to patch up the mess caused by greedy banksters who continue to draw large salaries and bonuses. In the recent budget, Osborne cut income tax rate for the 300,000 richest households, while 4.4 million pensioners are set to lose out by £84 a year. The strategy was to boost business and the rich by raising tax allowances – and forget about the unemployed and the lowest earners. That old ‘trickle down’ myth again.

Labour MP John Mann zeroed in on one particular aspect of the Budget and asked Osborne when he had last eaten a pasty at Greggs the bakers. Osborne was discombobulated by this and had probably forgotten that his Budget included a VAT increase on Cornish pasties. Greggs chief executive Ken McMeikan denounced Osborne as out of touch, and warned hundreds of jobs were at stake if pasty prices were raised by 20%.

 

One tweet suggested Osborne was then probably subjected to a Treasury presentation where he was told that pasties were “similar to mini boeufs en croute”.
The greasy spinmeisters went into action and Osborne’s fellow old-Etonian and Bullingdon member David Cameron was ready to fend off the pasty attacks from the press. “I think the last one I bought was from the West Cornwall Pasty Company. I seem to remember I was in Leeds station at the time and the choice was whether to have one of their small ones or one of their large ones. I have got a feeling I opted for the large one, and very good it was too.”

Indefatigable investigative reporters ferreted out the information that the West Cornwall Pasty Company outlet where he thought he enjoyed his last pasty closed two years ago. Gavin Williams, the boss of the West Cornwall Pasty Company, was not interested in Cameron’s endorsement of his product. He wanted ‘clarity and leadership’ from the prime minister.

One disaffected Tory MP reminded The Guardian that it was Osborne who brought in Andy Coulson to handle the media for Cameron. Coulson’s effectiveness was hampered by the fact that he was arrested (and has since been imprisoned) for criminal activities on behalf of the Murdoch empire.

Another said that Osborne misjudged the budget by failing to spot the significance of what has become known as the ‘granny tax’. It is not immediately obvious what is more depressing, the inane antics of the press, the ham-fisted attempts at populism by wealthy politicians or the total disregard of those in power for what ordinary people’s lives are actually like. Politicians insensitive to the suffering of ordinary people while they themselves enjoy a VVIP life-style should remember what happened to Marie Antoinette.

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/feature-viewpoint/item/4829-austerity-and-hypocrisy.html#sthash.UZnFOuOi.dpuf

 

Reconciliation and Retribution in Argentina

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday May 6 2012

Jorge Luis Borges described the Falklands conflict as “two bald men fighting over a comb”. Thirty years later it is still not over, and there is oil to fight for. One positive outcome of the Falklands conflict was that the Argentinean military junta displayed its incompetence and was ousted. One of the junta’s reasons for invading the Falklands was to divert public attention from Argentina’s poor economic performance and growing internal opposition to the junta’s repression.

 
The Guerra Sucia, Dirty War, was a period of state terrorism that had been going on since 1976 (although some argue that it started in 1973 with targeted assassinations of trade unionists; individual cases can be traced back to the bombing of the Plaza de Mayo in 1955). Human rights organizations dislike the term ‘Dirty War’, as it implies justification for the regime’s crimes through a state of war. The guerrillas did not pose a significant threat to the State.  They had not taken control of any part of the national territory; they were not supported by any foreign power, and they lacked popular support. The repression affected everyone, not just active opponents of the regime.

 

The state terrorists were supported by foreign powers. On March 27, 1976, the IMF released a $127 million credit for the military junta. The paramilitary death squads directly reported to General Galtieri. In March 1981, Galtieri was warmly received in the US. National Security Advisor Richard V Allen described him as a “majestic general”. His support for the Nicaraguan contras, and participation in Chile’s Operation Condor against left-wing subversives, allowed Galtieri US support in removing rival generals and, in December 1981, a coup won him the Presidency.

 

The junta’s first leader, General Jorge Rafael Videla, defined a “terrorist” as “not only someone who plants bombs but a person whose ideas are contrary to Western, Christian civilization.” The junta’s security forces exceeded even that broad mandate when defining dissidents. If they captured pregnant women or children, they placed the children with new families – often with families, who had been involved in the murder and torture of the parents. Sometimes the women became pregnant after being raped by their captors. The children of subversives were seen, author Marguerite Feitlowitz explained, as “seeds of the tree of evil.” Perhaps through adoption, those seeds could be replanted in healthy soil.

 

Francisco Goldman in the March 19 issue of the New Yorker discusses in detail the case of Marcela and Felipe Noble Herrera, who were adopted by Ernestina Herrera de Noble, the widow of Roberto Noble, the founder of Argentina’s Clarín media empire.

 
The dictators used Clandestine Detention Centres to incarcerate the “disappeared”. Most were eventually murdered and their bodies were buried in unmarked graves, incinerated or dumped in the sea from helicopters. Many of the captives were heavily drugged and taken over the Atlantic Ocean, into which they were thrown alive (unlike bin Laden), with heavy weights on their feet.  An Argentinean animal rights activist told me a couple of years ago: “Do not believe all you read, many but many people rather lived in that Argentina than what we have today, and I have the same feeling. Ninety eight percent of the people who disappeared were involved in some obscure thing, most of them were freedom fighters, if you know what I mean… There were some horrible things, but there always are horrible things in a war and that was a war against terrorism. I do remember all this, I am 42 years old, and I spent most of my childhood and adolescence under the military government, and I never felt the fear I feel today that you cannot even go out without thinking if you’ll get back in one piece or will be robbed, shot or raped.”

 
Terence Roehrig agrees with her, estimating that of the disappeared “at least 10,000 were involved in various ways with the guerrillas”. The Montoneros admitted that 5,000 of its guerrillas were killed, and the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo or ERP admitted the loss of 5,000 of their armed fighters.

Shortly after his inauguration in 1983, civilian president Raúl Alfonsín created CONADEP, Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas, National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons. The commission published its findings in the Nunca Más (Never Again) report. CONADEP recorded the forced disappearance of about 9,000 persons from 1976 to 1983. Estimates by human rights organizations usually claim 30,000. The report contains descriptions of individual cases of people being tortured or killed.

Elin Skaar, Senior Researcher and head of the Transitional Justice Research Programme at the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Bergen, Norway, has written a book, Retributive Justice: The Politics of Prosecution, on the role of courts and other institutional machinery in shaping “trajectories of post-transitional justice”. She argues that in Argentina judicial independence played a key role. In 1985, nine junta members were prosecuted and convicted. It was the first action against a former dictatorship since the Nuremberg trials and the first to be conducted by a civilian court. It largely succeeded in proving the crimes of the junta.

Less publicity was given to the fact that President Carlos Menem released the accused in 1989. In 2003, President Néstor Kirchner obtained a Supreme Court ruling permitting extraditions; a 2005 ruling declared that the 1986 and 1987 laws shielding those accused from prosecution were unconstitutional. Despite delays and ongoing threats against witnesses, over 600 hitherto immune defendants faced criminal proceedings by 2010. A total of 677 affidavits concerning civilians and servicemen killed in leftist terrorist acts were also filed.

Two former Argentine dictators appeared in court last March on charges of kidnapping hundreds of babies seized from political prisoners. The trial has focused on the fate of at least 34 children who were born to mothers being held in the two main prisons used during military rule, the Naval Mechanics School, and the Campo de Mayo military base.
Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, alongside six other former military officers, and Dr. Jorge Luis Magnasco, who attended many of the births, are involved in the case. Videla, now 85, was one of those released by Menem but later sentenced to life imprisonment. Bignone, 83, ruled Argentina during the Falklands conflict and handed over power to Alfonsín. He was sentenced to 25 years in April 2010. The sentence in the baby trial is expected to be delivered  in late May 2012.

“Justice was slow in coming but it has finally arrived,” said Estela de Carlotto, head of the human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Thirty years after the fall of the junta, trials are still taking place.

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/feature-viewpoint/item/5753-reconciliation-and-retribution-in-argentina.html#sthash.8O0DEL7f.dpuf

 

The Road I Wish I Had not Taken

I actually sat through a movie about a post-apocalyptic world. The characters were called Man, Boy, Woman. There was no explanation, that I could hear, of what brought about the apocalypse. I could not hear very much of the dialogue at all. I could not understand why they were endlessly moving about. They found a survival shelter with an abundance of food and creature comforts but rather than staying there and eating themselves to death, Man decides to go on the road again because he thought he heard a dog.

Plot spoiler. Man dies.

Why would anyone want to live in such a world? We all have to die some time. Most of the people in this world have died, it seems. Many of those left alive are eating other survivors. What is the point in delaying inevitable death when there is so little to live for? There does not appear to be any beer or Facebook or McVities plain chocolate digestives. Who would want to live such a life? Man has gun with two bullets in it. Many people seem to have taken the sensible option as we see a few dangling feet. If I had a gun, I might be tempted to use it if I was forced to watch this film again.

There were quite a few major players involved in this enterprise. Cormac McCarthy wrote the book. Award winning playwright Joe Penhall wrote the screenplay. Nick Cave wrote the music. The cast includes such reliable and not under-employed actors as Viggo Mortenson, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall ,Michael K Williams (Omar from The Wire) and Guy Pearce.

After writing this, I sampled a few reviews from people I trust, like Roger Ebert, J Hoberman and Peter Bradshaw. They are kinder than I am and someone even (I knew someone would) mentions Samuel Beckett. I am left wondering who would want to watch such a film. I did not pay for it,

This was The Road directed by John Hillcoat.

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