Tag Archives: UK

A pledge is not a pledge if…

5 Dec

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, the Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the paper that he did not regret the party’s proposal on the increased university tuition fees despite student backlash.

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A blast from the past – resettling Vietnamese refugees

31 Dec

According to an SMH report based on declassified documents, the former UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was so paranoid about having refugees in the country that she asked Australia to buy an island for their resettlement.

The issue of force migration must have been a controversial issue even back then. This could be inferred from the drastic measures of the Malaysian government which chose to push back the boats that is believed to have caused many of the refugees to drown. It was also ironic that the former Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, was quoted as objecting to this resettlement plan as he was afraid that it might become a ‘rival entrepreneurial city’. This would contradict his social Darwinian views in which he believed that a prosperous society is based on being governed by ‘educated’ elites.

Malcolm Fraser, the Liberal Prime Minister then, rejected the plan for a refugee colony and Australia went on to receive about 220,000 Vietnamese refugees. He has also publicly criticised the Opposition for their fear-mongering propaganda against refugees.

As Obama’s administration escalates its war on terror (both in Afghanistan and Pakistan) coupled with climate change related catastrophes, the global issue of forced migration is expected to intensify. In that sense, it is time to re-examine the international laws on refugees (the 1951 Convention & 1967 protocol) which is clearly dated and leaves too much discretion to individual states in arbitrarily defining who constitutes a refugee.

Channel 4 – Dispatches – Israel Lobby in the UK

19 Nov

According to Peter Oborne and James Jones who made this documentary for channel 4, the influence of the pro- Israel lobby is significant in the UK. For example,during the production of this film,

… Many people who privately voiced concerns about the influence of the lobby simply felt they had too much to lose by confronting it. One national newspaper editor told us, “that’s one lobby I’ve never dared to take on.” From MPs, to senior BBC journalists and representatives of Britain’s largest charities, the pattern became depressingly familiar. Material would come flooding out on the phone or in a meeting, but then days later an email would arrive to say that they would not be able to take part. Either after consultation with colleagues or consideration of the potential consequences, people pulled out…

The power of the lobby has even extended to MPs who felt threatened to voice any doubts on Israel’s OPT policies:

… It was only senior MPs whose careers are winding down that felt able to voice what many MPs told us in private. One of them, Michael Mates, a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee and former Northern Ireland minister, told us on the record that “the pro-Israel lobby in our body politic is the most powerful political lobby. There’s nothing to touch them.” Mates added: “I think their lobbying is done very discreetly, in very high places, which may be why it is so effective.”..

Read the pamphlet html text from Open Democracy on the makings of this film.

Comparing international outcries to Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial verdict

12 Aug

It is one of those curiosities that the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs is able to see the silver lining in the verdict of Aung San Suu Kyi’s sham trial.

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BAE sponsorship of Big Bang – what’s the message to impressionable children?

26 Feb

Campaigning organisations Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) have issued a media statement condemning BAE sponsorship in a major UK science fair, ‘The Big Bang’. Continue reading

Amnesty (for) American Abductions?

1 Feb

I came across this story from Michael Otterman’s American Torture website which was related to a Times article dated early December last year.

I quote an excerpt, ‘

A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it.

That means that if someone was kidnapped by US security forces (e.g. CIA) in another country and brought to America for criminal charges, its existing national court could rule in favour of the ‘kidnappers’ and conclude that the abduction is legal. The assumption made according to the senior lawyer for the US government predates to the 19th century of bounty hunting.

This preposterous arrogance and (il)legality is astounding. Does the US courts have total jurisdiction on a worldwide basis? What is the purpose of extradition treaties if bounty hunters can be employed professionally to do the dirty work?

But then again, the US government has always been reluctant to adhere to international benchmarks when it comes to human rights laws. Even when Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2000, he did not send the convention to the senate for ratification. When George Bush became the President, he withdrew the signature in 2002, signifying a step back on human rights. The ICC was set up to focus on gross and systematic human rights violations such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Back to the story. Imagine the public outcry and condemnation if a US citizen had been kidnapped and sent to another country facing trial and alleged charges?

I love the ending statement from the lawyer, who said’

The United States does have a view about procuring people to its own shores which is not shared…

American exceptionalism at its pure finesse. I am lost for words.

UN Security Council will not impose strict restrictions on arms deals

6 Oct

In an Amnesty International press release dated 1 October 2007, UN must impose arms embargo on Myanmar, the human rights organisation urges the “United Nations Security Council to impose a comprehensive and mandatory arms embargo on Myanmar. It also calls on the country’s principal arms suppliers — in particular China and India, but also Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and ASEAN nations — to suspend all arms supplies to the military Junta.”

While this call to arms embargo should be applauded, the likelihood of that happening is slim considering that China and Russia, two of the permanent member in the UN Security Council, are themselves involved in providing military equipment to the Burmese military regime.

Even though the EU and United States have imposed arms embargo on the regime, and that the United Kingdom and the United States are themselves permanent members in the UN Security Council, they are unlikely to favour this option as it may open up precedents which may require them to stop the profitable sales of arms the next time a dictator starts killing its innocent civilians.

Moreover, all the permanent nation members within the UN Security Council are profiting lucratively from the sales and transfer of weapons to other countries.

According to Wiki on Arms Industry, with information provided by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the top 5 largest arms exporters are US, Russia, Germany, France and UK. In the SIPRI 2007 yearbook, summary of Chapter 10, International Arms Transfer, The USA and Russia were the largest suppliers in the five-year period 2002–2006, each accounting for around 30 per cent of global deliveries.” It also claims that, “China and India remained the largest arms exporters in the world.” More chillingly, the summary stated that, “Transparency in arms transfers, which in the 1990s saw significant improvement, with more and better national export reports, has remained stagnant in the past few years.”

According to an AL Jazeera report, US ‘biggest global arms dealer’ dated 1 October 2007, the country cornered “nearly 42 per cent of the arms market”. The Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations report concluded that US arms deal is worth $16.9bn, a $3.4bn increase over 2005. Russia comes at second place boosing its worldwide arms sales “by $1.2bn, ending 2006 in second place with 21.6 per cent of the market”. The report however does not take into consideration the “illegal weapons transfers, worth an estimated $10bn.”

The profits from arms deals means that the UN Security Council is highly unlikely to implement measures to reduce global arms or strictly restrict arms sales.