Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: NSPCC

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 took in the use of 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 of Sri Lanka 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 indentured labourers. 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. It may be that dead children were eaten. Millions of Irish people emigrated over the 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.”

Vintage Sleaze Part2 Butler-Sloss Inquiry

This article appeared in the July 16 edition of Ceylon Today.

 

Colman's Column3

Last week I wrote about calls for a public inquiry into allegations that the UK Home Office had colluded in a cover up of paedophile activity in Parliament and government. There has been strong criticism of the role of Leon Brittan, who was Home Secretary at the time when 114 files relating to child abuse went missing. At the time I wrote that article, UK prime minister David Cameron was steadfastly arguing that an internal Home Office inquiry combined with ongoing police investigations would be sufficient.

Since then, on 6 July 2014, the current Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced that an expert panel will have the power to scrutinise the behaviour of political parties, the security services and private companies amid allegations that paedophile networks operated with impunity in the 1970s and 1980s. It will also investigate the handling of the information given to the police and prosecution service about the allegations at the time. May added that this review would look into the Paedophile Information Exchange group. Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the NSPCC will head this review which will report within ten weeks to Mrs May and to Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General. Wanless was previously the Big Lottery Fund’s chief executive and worked at the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

May raised the possibility of converting it into a full public inquiry and giving the panel the authority to subpoena witnesses and has since announced that a public inquiry will be led by retired judge Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss. There has been much criticism, mainly on the grounds of her age and connections, of the appointment of the appointment of Lady Butler-Sloss.

NPG P1029; Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss (nÈe Havers) by Christian CourrËges

Brother’s Keeper?

Lady Butler-Sloss’s family connections are indeed somewhat embarrassing. Her father, Sir Cecil Havers, was the high court judge who passed the death sentence on Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in Britain. In a 2010 television interview, his grandson, the actor Nigel Havers, revealed that his grandfather had written to the Home Secretary recommending a reprieve, but had received a curt refusal. Sir Cecil subsequently sent money annually for the upkeep of Ellis’s son.

Gerry Conlon recently died at the age of 60. Daniel Day Lewis is to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth. One of Day Lewis’s memorable performances was as Gerry conlon in Jim Sheridan’s film In the Name of the Father. In the film Daniel Massey plays the prosecuting QC, Sir Michael Havers, who is unnamed. Gerry Conlon spent 25% of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Gerry Conlon was one of the Guildford Four, who were convicted in 1975 for the IRA Guildford pub bombings of 5 October 1974. After their arrest, all four defendants confessed to the bombing under torture by British police. There was never any evidence that any of The Four had been involved with the Provisional IRA. Collectively, the Four and the Maguire Seven served a total of 113 years in prison and one of the Maguire Seven, Giuseppe Conlon, Gerry’s father, died in prison, convicted on the basis of discredited forensic evidence. Havers represented the Crown in the trial and appeal of the Guildford Four and also of the Maguire family. In the case of the Guildford Four, the Director of Public Prosecutions was found to have suppressed alibi evidence that supported Gerry Conlon and Paul Hill’s claims of innocence. The DPP suppressed confessions by Provisional IRA bombers, known as the Balcombe Street Gang that they had carried out the Guildford and Woolwich bombings. In his submission to Sir John May’s 1989 Inquiry into the Guildford and Woolwich bombings, Labour MP Chris Mullins cast doubt on Havers’s integrity. “He is, therefore, probably the person who can lay claim to the most detailed knowledge of this affair. I respectfully submit that any inquiry that passed without the benefit of his experience would be deficient…The only hope of sustaining the original convictions was to rewrite the script from top to bottom. This Sir Michael and his colleagues proceeded to do with ingenuity and relish.”

In the Yorkshire Ripper case in 1981, Havers attracted controversy at the outset of the trial, when he said of Sutcliffe’s victims in his introductory speech: “Some were prostitutes, but perhaps the saddest part of the case is that some were not. The last six attacks were on totally respectable women.”

More to the point, Sir Michael was the attorney general under the Thatcher government and was accused of a “cover-up” when he refused to prosecute Sir Peter Hayman, a former diplomat and member of the Paedophile Information Exchange. Hayman was the deputy under secretary of state at the Foreign Office, and was reputed to be a senior officer in MI6, the foreign intelligence service.

havers

Should being sister to Mrs Thatcher’s most senior law officer disqualify Lady Butler-Sloss from heading an impartial inquiry?

Husband’s Keeper?

When Lady Butler-Sloss was appointed by Tony (now Lord) Newton to head the Cleveland Inquiry, the News of the World (17 July 1988) did a feature on her husband Joseph Butler-Sloss, who was then a circuit judge in Kenya. In a taped conversation, he confessed to using prostitutes A Nairobi court colleague said: “The wife comes through the front door and his girls go out the back. He is very discreet with her around because he doesn’t want scandal.”

Her Own Record

She was the first female Lord Justice of Appeal and, until 2004, was the highest-ranking female judge in the United Kingdom. In 2002, she chaired the Crown Appointments Board charged with the selection of a new Archbishop of Canterbury. She is Chairman of the Advisory Council of St Paul’s Cathedral. She once stood as a Conservative candidate for election to Parliament.

Her main qualification for heading this inquiry would probably be her previous work on the Cleveland child abuse scandal in 1987. Dr Marietta Higgs and Dr Geoffrey Wyatt diagnosed 121 cases of suspected child sexual abuse in Stockton-on-Tees. Higgs used a reflex anal dilation test, which on the scandal’s 20th anniversary Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson described as “not reliable”. The children were subject to place of safety orders, and some were removed from their parents’ care permanently. Dr Higgs continued to examine them while they were in foster care. She subsequently accused foster parents of further abuse and many were arrested. Courts dismissed cases involving 96 of the 121 children alleged to be victims of sexual abuse and 26 cases, involving children from twelve families, were found by judges to have been incorrectly diagnosed.

In The Cleveland Report was established, Baroness Butler-Sloss stated that the problems of child sexual abuse had become more recognised in the early 1980s which caused “particularly difficult problems for the agencies concerned in child protection”. She went on to state: “In Cleveland an honest attempt was made to address these problems by the agencies. In Spring 1987 it went wrong.”The public inquiry found most of the allegations of sexual abuse were unfounded and all but 27 children were returned to their families. The two doctors were criticised for “over-confidence” in their methods.

People on various sides of the debate were unhappy with the Butler-Sloss Cleveland Report. Anti-patriarchal witch finder Beatrix Campbell said: “Her report contributed to the myth that children were the victims not of sexual abuse but of crazed doctors and social workers.” Anti-zealot the late Richard Webster wrote: “Through no fault of her own Justice Elizabeth Butler-Sloss had, in effect, been compelled to produce her report in the dark. She simply did not have the benefit of the very scientific research which would have revealed the true scale of the Cleveland scandal and the real dangers of the child protection ideology and the paediatric zealotry which had led to it.”

Should She Stand Down?

Lady Butler-Sloss will not be working alone. She will have a panel of independent experts and the review will be conducted in the glare of publicity. However, can we expect transparency from an inquiry presided over by a member of the House of Lords whose members she would be investigating?

She was Chairman of the Independent Security Commission  which  reviewed “vetting of those who belong to the Royal Households, those working with them, or who otherwise gain access to Royal residences”.   She would have overall a responsibility for vetting  Jimmy Savile. She is an intelligence insider. She must have known knew Savile was a paedophile.

How About an International Inquiry?

In the five years since Sri Lanka comprehensively defeated the barbarous Tamil Tigers, UK ministers have been persistently calling for an international inquiry into alleged war crimes and human rights violations. As there is strong evidence that UK ministers have been buggering orphans for decades, would it not be the best plan to appoint an internationally respected figure to conduct an independent inquiry? Someone not intimately connected by ties of blood and influence to the likely perpetrators?

 Postscript

Since the article was published, Lady Butler-Sloss has decided to stand down saying it has : “become clear to me that I did not sufficiently consider whether my background and the fact my brother had been Attorney General would cause difficulties.”

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