BAHRAIN – News: Twisted Legal System Continues Courtroom Farce

BAHRAIN’S TWISTED LEGAL SYSTEM CONTINUES COURT FARCE WITH A “RETRIAL” OF ALKHAWAJA AND 20 OTHERS:

BAHRAIN GOVERNMENT CLAIM ALKHAWAJA “NOT FORCE-FED” – HOW COULD HE BE ALIVE AFTER FASTING 83 DAYS OTHERWISE?:

TORTURE, BEATINGS AND ABUSE BY THE AL KHALIFA POLICE CONTINUE IN “UNOFFICIAL LOCATIONS” SAYS HRW:

BAHRAIN FOREIGN MINISTER INCITES FOLLOWERS TO VOTE FOR TV FILM – APPARENTLY THOUGHT “BAFTA” WAS A FOOD EATING AWARD:

TIMELINE – 1st MAY 2012 12.25 GMT:

Following international pressure, particularly over the case of Abdulhadi AlKhawaja, Bahrain’s Al Khalifa family run Government yesterday announced via the Court of Cassation that all 21 defendants convicted last year in a military court of “plotting against the monarchy”, would be sent for retrial in a civilian court.

Eight of the defendants, including AlKhawaja, had previously been sentenced to life imprisonment and 7 of the defendants were given long sentences in absentia. The 14 who have been held in prison since their arrest in the Spring of 2011 will not be released pending  retrial.

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Support for AlKhawaja Unrelenting

A entirely new trial with prosecution and defence witnesses will take place, meaning effectively that the Bahrain Government has found just another way of keeping them in prison while at the same time pretending to the world that it is “listening” and “reforming its legal system”.

However, the Al Khalifa Government has “pulled the wool” over the eyes of the international community too many times to be taken seriously and therefore any of its “good” actions in regards to the Opposition will be regarded skeptically.

Sayed Hadi al-Mousawi, a spokesman for the Opposition Wefaq Party, said, “This ruling is just a step in the right direction, but the street will not calm down until all the prisoners are freed. This is just a part of it”.

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Khadija & Zainab AlKhawaja

Khadija al-Mousawi, AlKhawaja’s wife, said, “If they are serious they should set them free and then retry them.

My husband is going through the whole thing again, remembering the horrible episode of torture, attempt to rape and sexual abuse.

I think it is ridiculous, what sort of legal process is this? They are playing for time, and should have transferred his case to a civilian court at the first hearing not the third.”

The BBC has a video report, including an interview with Khadija, HERE:

BAHRAIN GOVERNMENT CLAIM ALKHAWAJA “NOT FORCE-FED” – HOW COULD HE BE ALIVE AFTER FASTING 83 DAYS OTHERWISE?:

AlKhawaja himself is now in the 83rd day of his “Freedom or Death” hunger strike. When his family were finally allowed to visit for an hour on Sunday, after being denied access for a week, AlKhawaja told them that he had been tied to the bed, sedated and force-fed through a nasoenteric tube.

Despite denials on their Government news agency website from the Bahraini Defence Force military hospital where he is being held, that this was the case, it is almost certainly the reason he is still alive. Almost all previous hunger strikers have not survived more than 73 days. He has vowed to continue his strike.http://www.petercliffordonline.com/bafta-burp

The family were also allowed to visit Zainab AlKhawaja, Abdulhadi’s daughter, who has now been held in custody for more than a week for staging a sit-down protest on the highway in support of her father.

Zainab told her family that she had been kicked and beaten on arrest.

Bahrain activist Frankie Dolan has started a Storify page in support of AlKhawaja and is asking people to leave their comments, thoughts and memories about him and the inspiration he has provided. 100,000 comments needed. You can add yours, HERE:

TORTURE, BEATINGS AND ABUSE BY THE AL KHALIFA POLICE CONTINUE IN “UNOFFICIAL LOCATIONS” SAYS HRW:

That abuse, torture, arbitrary arrests and distortion continue in Bahrain, despite its “commitment” to implementing the recommendations of the BICI report issued last November, was highlighted again on Sunday when Human Rights Watch (HRW) published another report titled “Bahrain: Police Brutality Despite Reform Pledges”.

In a visit from 15th – 19th March 2012, HRW interviewed 14 youngsters, including 7 children, who had been arrested and then taken to informal police facilities and isolated public places and beaten before being released or taken to police stations.

Interviews and formal proceedings at police stations are now supposed to be recorded on video.http://www.petercliffordonline.com/bafta-burp

One 20 year old described his treatment after being arrested on February 11th and taken to the former youth hostel in Sanabis, a place activists have identified as one used for abuse and torture.

“I had lost my shoes and could feel grass beneath my feet. With my hands cuffed behind my back, they made me kneel and bend over and they started kicking me and beating me with sticks. Someone said: “Finished.”

Another voice said: “Too early, continue.” They then removed all my clothes, apart from the tee shirt that they had turned on my head, and laughed at me. They then put my pants back on and asked me to pray.

As I leaned forward, I and the other prisoner were kicked from behind and we fell forward into a swimming pool, still with hands cuffed. The pool was shallow, so I was able to stand but the water was cold – it was a particularly chilly evening.

When I fell into the pool, my tee shirt hood came down and I could see policemen standing around the pool”.

HRW has confirmed with satellite imagery that the former Sanabis Youth Hostel grounds contains a swimming pool.

HRW raised “the issue of police brutality and torture during arrest and at informal facilities with Bahrain’s chief of public security, Major General Tariq al-Hasan, and his two senior international advisers, John Yates and John Timoney, on April 17.

Timoney and Yates said they had visited some of the facilities identified by Human Rights Watch but found no evidence at the time of their visits of detainees being taken there and mistreated.

Major General al-Hasan told Human Rights Watch that the police authorities were considering issuing instructions to order immediate transfer of detained protesters to police stations”.

As yet no senior police or security officer has been held accountable for abuse, torture or deaths in custody in Bahrain and not one single police officer has as yet tbeen convicted of such a crime. You can read the whole HRW report, HERE:

BAHRAIN FOREIGN MINISTER INCITES FOLLOWERS TO VOTE FOR TV FILM – APPARENTLY THOUGHT “BAFTA” WAS A FOOD EATING AWARD:

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, who describes himself on his Twitter profile as a “Bon Vivant” (EDITOR: But judging by his photographs has been clearly “Bon Vivanting” rather too much lately – see @khalidalkhalifa and below – and perhaps got the word “BAFTA” confused with the English word “BURP”), last weekend incited his 80,000 socila media followers to vote against the Al Jazeera award winning TV documentary “Shouting in the Dark”.

The Al Jazeera film, much of which was shot undercover, documents the Bahrain uprising of 2011 and the aftermath. It has already won numerous awards and is currently one of 4 nominees for the 2012 BAFTA (British Academy for Film and Television Arts) prize for Current Affairs.http://www.petercliffordonline.com/bafta/burp

Sheikh Khalid told his followers to vote for a Channel 4 film about Sri Lanka, one which probably few of them have watched, and, ironically, whose film makers Bahrain’s Government deported from their country recently (see below).

So far, his “call to action” has not helped much. As of this morning, Tuesday, “Shouting in the Dark” was ahead by around 7,000 votes, polling 52.25% of the vote. The other 2 programmes by Panorama have jointly polled less than 1% of the vote.

You can cast your vote, HERE:

You can also watch Al Jazeera’s excellent documentary, HERE:

The UK’s Channel 4, whose journalists were chased by police and deported from Bahrain for filming “illegally”, have had some of the footage that they lost at the time smuggled back to them. You can see their video report, filmed during the F1 Grand Prix week, HERE:

Ironically, the votes of Sheikh Khalid and his supporters are irrelevant anyway. The BAFTA Awards are decided by an independent jury and will be announced on the 27th May. The Radio Times poll was merely to gauge the views of its readers and it makes no difference to the end result. You can read the full BBC article, HERE:

EDITOR: As a satirical blogger I am so grateful to the Bahrain government for the endless ways it makes a fool of itself. Thank you.

BAHRAIN – News: “Is Alkhawaja Being Force Fed?”

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SUSPICIONS GROW THAT ALKHAWAJA’S RIGHTS ARE BEING FURTHER ABUSED BY “FORCE-FEEDING”:

BAHRAIN’S PRIME MINISTER: “WHEN IT COMES TO NATIONAL SECURITY, HUMAN RIGHTS AREN’T THE MOST IMPORTANT THING” – SO WE HAVE NOTICED!:

TIMELINE: 28th APRIL 2012 10.45 GMT:

Abdulhadi AlKhawaja is now on the 80th day of his “Freedom or Death” hunger strike.

The IRA hunger strikers in Northern Ireland during the Irish troubles in the 1980’s lived between 59 and 73 days. http://www.petercliffordonline/force-feeding

An Indian environmental activist, Swami Nigamanand, who was trained in yogic fasting techniques, died after a hunger strike lasting 115 days in 2011.

(For further information see Mike Diboll’s excellent article, “Bahrain Abuses: where is Abdulhadi Al Khawaja?)

So this now begs the question “Is AlKhawaja being force-fed?”.

If so, this would be an abuse of his human rights to choose not to eat.

The other possibility, as I suggested yesterday, is that he is in a coma and being kept alive with intravenous infusions.

The “force-fed” suggestion gains credibility when you realise that the nutritional drink Ensure, which the Gulf Daily News  yesterday implied AlKhawaja was “happily drinking”, was in fact used by US authorities in force feeding kits at Guantanamo Bay.

Guantanamo Bay, being in Cuba, was outside normal US jurisdiction and used to hold suspected “terrorists”, though many were later shown to be completely innocent.

(EDITOR: Hmmm! Sounds horribly familiar!  My thanks to Mike Diboll, who has worked in Bahrain and taught Maryam AlKhawaja, for the information.)httP://www.petercliffordonline.com/force-feeding

Reinforcing the “force feeding” idea is the fact that all access to AlKhawaja, both personal and via the telephone, by his family, his lawyer and the Danish Ambassador has been denied this week on “doctors orders” and an agreed family visit arranged for today has been cancelled by the authorities.

A Tweet from the Ministry of Interior late on Wednesday claimed that he was still “in good health despite rumours. He is in hospital receiving full medical care”.

Khadija Khawaja, Abdulhadi’s wife, said, “They say he is in good health, but if that’s true, then why won’t they let me speak to him, why won’t they let me see him?”

The Bahraini Government has also refused to let her visit her daughter Zainab, who is being held in prison for 7 days after being arrested for “disrupting traffic” following a sit-down protest in support of her Father.

So what the hell is going on? As usual, the devious Al-Khalifa Government has some explaining to do.

BAHRAIN’S PRIME MINISTER: “WHEN IT COMES TO NATIONAL SECURITY, HUMAN RIGHTS AREN’T THE MOST IMPORTANT THING” – SO WE HAVE NOTICED!:

Talking of being “devious”, Der Spiegel, the German newspaper group, yesterday published a rare interview with the “master of the art of double-speak”, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Prime Minister.

Throughout the interview the PM refers to Bahrain’s Opposition as a “terrorist group” “supported by Iran and Hezbollah”. “What we are facing,” he claims, “Is exactly what the Americans are facing with terrorism”.

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Bahrain's PM - "Disengenuous, Old Fraud"

Asked about “dialogue” with the Opposition, the PM says, “The king has gone a long way in making many offers to them, but in the end they told us they had to wait to see what Iran would tell them”.

(EDITOR: Er.. yes, I a sure that’s exactly how the conversation with the Opposition went!)

After listing all the wonderful benefits of living in Bahrain, but which don’t included democracy and freedom of expression of course, he adds, “I hold the opposition’s religious leader, Issa Qassim, responsible for everything that is going on in this country, especially for all the people who have been killed. And Qassim is taking his orders from Iran”.

Asked about the constant battles between police and protesters, he says, “We do not want bloodshed in this country. Our police are only here to protect the people…..” (EDITOR: Er… perhaps he could get Yates and Timoney to remind them of that?)

On AlKhawaja, he “begs to differ” on the assertion that after 80 days on hunger strike his condition is very bad. “His condition is not as bad as you say. According to the doctors attending to him on a daily basis, he takes liquids. The Danish ambassador visited him recently and said he was satisfied with the treatment being provided to him”.

(EDITOR: Completely ignoring the fact that the Danish ambassador has been denied the opportunity to visit AlKhawaja for over a week, despite repeated requests.)

As the interview proceeds the PM starts to reveal his true colours: “When it comes to national security, human rights aren’t the most important thing” and when asked about the majority Shia Opposition merely asking for more rights, says, “The opposition is only looking for excuses, abusing demands for ‘more rights’ and ‘democracy’ to turn Bahrain into a second Iran”.

When Der Spiegel point out that he has been PM for 41 years and say, “That’s very unusual for a democracy”, his reply is classic. “So what? Democratic systems are very different. The system in Thailand is different from Russia, and the form practiced in Germany differs from that of the United States. So why can’t we also be different?”

Lastly, when asked about the “Arab Spring” revolutions, he displays a high level of naive disengenuity by saying, “Do you think I am happy to see what has happened in all these countries? This is not an ‘Arab spring.’ Spring is connected with flowers, happy people and love — not death, chaos and destruction”.

EDITOR: So there you have it, a rigid, disingenuous old fraud who blames everything on Shia Iran and its “agents”, and who would have us believe that the police are well behaved and acting only in self-defence to preserve a wonderful system that has lasted almost 230 years since 1783.

Some might think its time for a change!  You can read the full interview, HERE:

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PM - "It's All the Fault of the Shia" - Courtesy of @CarlosLatuff

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BAHRAIN – News: Human Rights Activist “In High Spirits” Apparently – Can You Believe a Word They Say?

GOVERNMENT PRESS “SOURCE” SAYS “ALKHAWAJA IS IN HIGH SPIRITS” – (RUNNING AND SKIPPING NO DOUBT!):

AL-KHALIFA PRIME MINISTER’S TWO-FACED “HUMANITY”:

TIMELINE – 27th APRIL 2012 08.57 GMT:

According to a report in today’s Gulf Daily News, the main English language pro-government newspaper in Bahrain, they had been told by “sources” that Abdulhadi AlKhawaja was still at the Bahrain Defence Force hospital and was in “high spirits”

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AlKhawaja in "High Spirits" After 79 days on Hunger Strike?

The report also claims that “he has never stopped receiving intravenous fluids, although nurses did say he tried to stop taking water two days ago” and that for the last 2 days he has been drinking the nutritional drink Ensure.

According to Google, “Ensure is a food supplement often recommended by nutritionists or dieticians to ‘ensure’ that patients are getting enough calories and vitamins when swallowing difficulties or arm weakness make eating whole foods difficult or no longer pleasurable”.

It is often used with sufferers of motor neurone disease who are no longer able to feed themselves normally.

The press source also went on to say that AlKhawaja “has lost at least 11kg to 12kg, but he is not skeletal. His muscle mass is still there, but his fat mass has definitely gone. His skin is very tight so it is difficult when searching for a vein for a needle, but for the last two days he has been taking the nutritional drink Ensure.

Reports that he has gone missing are not true – and I saw him coming out of the bathroom where he was in high spirits.”
You can read the full report HERE:

This report that AlKhawaja is “in good health” was compounded yesterday by a video interview by BBC’s Hardtalk programme with Bahrain’s Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Khalid Bin Ali Al-Khalifa. He says that AlKhawaja is receiving “optimum health care”.

EDITOR: Whatever that is? If you can bear to watch this grinning, smirking  idiot, the video report is HERE:

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AlKhawaja Remains Defiant - Courtesy of @CarlosLatuff

 

So after 79 days on a hunger strike then, AlKhawaja is “fine” the Bahraini Government would like us to believe.

That he is apparently still alive is a relief but why they refuse to allow anyone to see or talk with him is highly suspicious.  

The claim is that the “doctors” have said that visits and phone calls must stop.

Why? Just another collective punishment on his family and followers it seems to me – and once again a demonstration of the Al-Khalifa’s complete lack of humanity.

AlKhawaja’s appeal against his conviction comes to court again on Monday 30th April.  But don’t get your hopes up. On their past track record the Bahrain justice system will make it as difficult and awkward as possible, probably postponing the decision yet again.

AL-KHALIFA PRIME MINISTER’S TWO-FACED “HUMANITY”:

Meanwhile the ridiculous monarchy in Bahrain play out their games with the King sending a “cable” to the Prime Minister, thanking him for his “cable” thanking him for the “success” of  (the half full stands at) the F1 Grand Prix weekend.

(EDITOR: Someone should tell them about those new invention, emails and the telephone!).

There is also much made on the official Bahrain News Agency website of visits by the Prime Minister, and a string of other officials, to the bedsides of injured police officers and also to a mother and son injured in a gas cylinder explosion that severely damaged their home and showered them with glass.http://www.petercliffordonline.com

Speaking to the police officers, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the antique Prime Minister, said, “To say “thank you” is not enough. We need to show love and respect to the security officers and translate that into deeds”.

“The Prime Minister lauded popular stances in support of the security officers which, he said, emanate from the Bahraini inherent humane characteristics”, says the report.

“He stressed rejection of all forms of intimidation and terrorization of citizens, asserting that Bahrain will always remain and oasis of security and stability under the wise leadership of His Majesty the King”.

(EDITOR: If you can face reading the full report without reaching for the sick bag, it is HERE:

Strange that we never noticed members of the Government visiting the families of those whose loved ones have died from police brutality or mysteriously in the Al-Khalifa prisons. I must have just missed the reports that day!

BAHRAIN – NEWS: WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ALKHAWAJA?

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FAMILY, LAWYER AND DIPLOMATS DENIED ACCESS TO ALKHAWAJA – IS HE STILL ALIVE?:

TIMELINE – 26th APRIL 2012 10.15 GMT:

Today, Thursday, would be the 78th day of Abdulhadi AlKhawaja’s “Freedom or Death” hunger strike – if he is still alive.  75 days is normally the limit for surviving without sustenance and AlKhawaja told his family he would even stop drinking water last Sunday.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/bahrain-news

Where is AlKhawaja?

The Al-Khalifa Government currently has a news blackout on information around AlKhawaja and his family, his lawyer and the Danish Ambassador have all been prevented this week from speaking with him or making visits.

AlKhawaja’s wife says that she phoned the Bahrain Defence Force medical ward where he was being held on Wednesday after he failed to make his regular Tuesday call to her. A nurse is reported to have told her that his room and bed were empty.

Until a few days ago the Ministry of Interior was saying that he is still “in good health” but activists have reported a large increase in police checkpoints around Bahrain in the last 24 hours, which may indicate that some announcement to the contrary is imminent.

There also seems to have been an escalation in night time police raids on houses in the Shia villages and random arrests to “neutralise” those most likely to demonstrate. The village of Duraz was particularly targeted after an explosion there on Tuesday night injured 4 policemen following a fire inside a shop.

Ban Ki Moon, the UN General Secretary, the US State Department and the EU have all once again this week called on the Bahraini Government to  use “every available option” to find resolution over the AlKhawaja case.  It may be too late or he is in a coma.

httP://www.petercliffordonline.com/bahrain-news

Zanaib AlKhawaja Protesting in the Road - byshr.org

Zainab AlKhawaja, his daughter, who was arrested last weekend for staging a protest sit-in in the middle of the road in the Financial Harbour district, has been remanded in custody for another 7 days.

Her sister, Maryam AlKhawaja, who acts as international spokeswoman for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, yesterday addressed the EU Parliament in clear, forthright terms about the poor state of human rights, not just in Bahrain, but throughout the Gulf. 

You can hear hear her articulate testimony in this video report, HERE:

In response to requests to the Ministry of Interior for information about AlKhawaja by the media, the Ministry merely says that people should “watch its Twitter feed”. There was no relevant information from that source yesterday.

In the meantime, we can only wait and hope that somehow AlKhawaja is still alive. 

EDITOR: For the Ministry of Interior to deny his family information and access is beyond cruel – but then little surprises me from this lying and despicable regime.

The Last Absolute Monarch in Africa l Royal Wedding Afterthoughts

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Peter Clifford

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR LIBYA- NEWS AND HAVE BEEN MISDIRECTED   PLEASE CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE CORRECT PAGE:

– 6/5/11 Peter Clifford –

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THE LAST ABSOLUTE MONARCH IN AFRICA:

While pro-democracy demonstrations and battles continue around the world, notably in Syria, Yemen and Libya at the current time, protests in a small country in southern Africa against suppression and autocratic rule seem to have gone largely unnoticed.

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King Mswati in Traditional Dress - BBC

Swaziland is a tiny kingdom, just 6,704 square miles in area and with a population of 1.2 million, surrounded by South Africa on three sides and with a northern eastern border against Mozambique.

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Swaziland - BBC

While South Africa and Mozambique (both of which I have visited several times) have had their problems, and still have some, noticeably corruption, their elections are generally considered free and fair.

In Swaziland, all power ultimately lies in the hands of King Mswati lll who rules by royal degree and says his county “is not yet ready for multi-party politics”.

Quite why he says this becomes clear when you discover that he lives a very privileged lifestyle in royal palaces with 14 wives (yes, 14, that is not a misprint!), twenty children and a fleet of expensive cars. He did back down however when there were protests about him buying a private jet.

How considerate! – while meanwhile 40% of his population are unemployed, more than 25% are HIV positive (the highest rate in the world), 63% earn less than $1.25 a day and 80% less than $2 (USAID 2010).

Life expectancy is just 50 years for men and only 48 years for women according to the UN (appalling when compared with over 77 years for men and over 80 years for women in the UK).

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King Mswati lll

The King’s net wealth is estimated at $100 million and he has trusteeship of a $10 billion dollar fund. The extreme wealth therefore of just one person skews the Gross National Income per capita to an average of $2,470 per person.

As a result, the World Bank classifies Swaziland as “lower middle income”, thereby disqualifying it from a whole host of useful foreign aid partnership programmes and denying the poorest in its society the urgent help that they need.

During the recent world economic crisis Swaziland’s economy has more or less collapsed and what aid there is has been withheld because of concerns about corruption.

Just to add to the obscenity of this situation, King Mswati recently attended the Royal Wedding celebrations of Prince William and Kate Middleton in London, reputedly staying for several days at one of the luxury hotels, either Claridges or The Dorchester, with an entourage of 50 at a minimum double room rate of £450 a night (does he book 14 doubles, one for each wife, I wonder?).

And far from being sympathetic to the problems of his population, in a debate in Parliament in 2000 he said HIV positive people should be “sterilised and branded”.

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HIV orphans in Swaziland - BBC

More recently, earlier this year, the Swazi government cut the salaries of its civil servants by 10% while approving an increase in the annual allowance for the King from $24 million to $30 million.

Mswati also manages to control the press and suppresses anything he doesn’t like. When a photograph of his new $500,000 car appeared in the media, he promptly banned all photography of royal vehicles.

Similarly, when he was cuckolded by his Justice Minister, a former friend (it must be so hard keeping track of 14 wives!), he placed his 22 year old wife under house arrest and prevented the newspapers from carrying the story (though the nearby South African media follows everything with great interest and in this particular case unrestrained glee).

This madness, sadly real, reminds me of a Terry Jones fairy story for children called “Touch The Moon”. The king in the story becomes totally obsessed with building a tower so high that if he stands on tiptoe he can touch the moon.

(Recommended: UK Bookstore “Fantastic Stories” by Terry Jones – USA Bookstore “Fantastic Stories”– for adults and children everywhere with a sense of fun and wonder! Illustrated by Michael Foreman)

In the process of trying to achieve this mad desire the king demolishes half his capital city to make way for the tower, digs up the rest of the kingdom to quarry stone for it, impoverishes his people and almost kills his daughter, before he realises what a fool he has been.

While King Mswati may not be a bad person in himself, at the age of 43 and having been educated at Sherbourne School in Dorset in the UK, you would think he would have more sense than to endlessly squander his wealth in the faces of his impoverished people.

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King Mswati's Eco Car

 

Presumably he is surrounded by a cluster of sycophantic ministers who, busy feathering their own nests, are not going to bring him into the real world and tell him the truth. He should be intelligent enough to know that the more you suppress people, the more you will build resistance.

No wonder then that for a country with such good exportable natural resources (coal, asbestos, sugar, wood pulp and crushed stone for roads) yet such high unemployment and 38% of the population under 14 years of age, the King’s heavy handed autocratic rule is at last being challenged.

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The Call For Democracy

On 12th April 2011, following strikes by trade unions in previous years which have gone unheeded, demonstrations erupted in Manzini, the commercial capital. Over 1,000 peaceful protesters, including many teachers, were subjected to water cannon and tear gas grenades.

The demonstration was timed to commemorate the 38th anniversary of the banning of all political parties by Mswati’s father, King Sobhuza II, and none have been allowed since.  A number of opposition figures and students were arrested and mobile phones impounded by the police.

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Protesters In Swaziland

Since then things appear to have quietened down, but that is only on the surface as there has been virtually no response from the Government or King and certainly no indication of any inclination to change.

This will, of course, only add fuel to the fire, until finally this parasitic monarchy and government are swept away.  A wiser monarch would invest in a free democratic system and remove himself from political control now.  We won’t hold our breath!

I will leave the last word to Nelson Mandela: “Many of our traditional leaders are also not aware of the lessons of history.  They do not seem to know that there were once absolute monarchs in the world who did not share power with their subjects  ……… Had these monarchs clung stubbornly to their absolute powers they would long have disappeared from the scene.” Nelson Mandela “Conversations With Myself” (UK BOOKSTORE -“Conversations With Myself” – USA BOOKSTORE)

11/5/2011 NEWS UPDATE: Swaziland’s Finance Minister, Majozi Sithole, said on the radio today that Swaziland may not be able to pay its civil servants in June ………. I sense trouble ahead, especially as civil servants were in the vanguard of the demonstrations last month!

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ROYAL WEDDING AFTERTHOUGHTS:

Like millions of others around the world I watched the Royal Wedding in London on TV recently and enjoyed it – a great spectacle which UK Plc does very well.

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The Royal Couple - rightphoto.com

And while I wish the “royal couple” (now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) a  long and happy relationship – they look like a very nice pair together – I do have to wonder just what this “royal” thing is all about?

What does it mean to be “royal”?  What it means in fact is that some people get to be born into the right family, at the right time and, if they are lucky in their timing, into a long  life of privilege, power, wealth and luxury.  (I admit  one or two have literally  lost their heads along the way, so it isn’t always a good deal!)

Apart from that, “being royal” doesn’t mean anything.  It is all a grand illusion that the majority of us buy into and go along with.

While I would concede that a constitutional monarchy where the Head of State is completely separate from the politics of the day is extremely useful, other than that these people are exactly the same as the rest of us when it comes down to it – just the same but with posher accents!  Though I am sure the majority of them would like to think otherwise.

And talking of the Royal Wedding, why was it that playboy despots like King Mswati (above) and the Libyan Ambassador ( the invitation later rescinded after protests) were invited while two former UK Prime Ministers, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair and their partners were excluded?

This exclusion of two people who have held the highest political office in the country struck me as rude, banal, unfair and stupid and smacks of the “ruling elite”  (in their delusions of self importance) punishing those who may have offended them along the way.

Similarly, Sarah Ferguson was denied an invitation and had to watch her daughters attend with her former husband, the Duke of York on TV. How petty it all is!

Until the next time,

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Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com

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The Alternative Vote l And The End of Bin Laden

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Peter Clifford

2/5/11 Peter Clifford –

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THE ALTERNATIVE VOTE:

As I have said a number of times, democracy is not a perfect system but when embraced by the vast majority of a country’s population it generally provides the best protection for a free parliamentary consensus where unpopular governments can be removed by popular vote.

All political systems are open to manipulation of course and democracy is no exception. Here in the UK, arguably the seat of democracy, virtually every major government to hold power has redrawn parliamentary boundaries in their favour (it’s called “legal gerrymandering”!), so that they increase the chances of the majority of the votes going to their own candidates at the next election.

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Vote YES TO AV - Time for a Change

Until now in the UK we have had a “first past the post” system at elections i.e. the party that wins an absolute majority of seats, over  all other parties combined, even by one, gets to form the next government (even though it may not be supported by a majority of voters).

Combined with the “legal gerrymandering” mentioned above, this has meant that unpopular and sometimes incompetent governments get to stay in power for several 4 year terms and/or for much longer than they should.

It has also meant effectively that the same two big parties get to run the country in turn for long periods of time, swapping occasionally from side to side with much the same long term result – a promising start (usually lots of promises!), followed by years of stumbling, followed by more years of a government that long ago passed its “sell by date”.
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It was refreshing then to see the last election in the UK in 2010 so close to call that no party ended up with an absolute majority and in the end David Cameron’s Conservatives entered into a coalition with the Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.

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UK Government by Coalition

Many people in both parties were not happy with this as it involved a large number of reluctant compromises on each side; but compromise does have the advantage of modifying and preventing the worst extremes on the right or the left from dominating the agenda, and that, in my view, is all to the good.

Part of the coalition deal between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats was that the Government would look at an another voting system and put it to a national referendum. There are a number of different voting systems and some are clearly better than others, but it is definitely time for a change rather than no change at all.

On May 5th we have a national referendum (as well as voting in District and Parish elections) on whether we should adopt AV, The Alternative Vote, as our new system of democracy.

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AV IS A FAIRER SYSTEM

While it is still not an ideal system (probably nothing is), it at least ensures that the majority of people in any given constituency have some sort of preference for the elected candidate and everyone’s vote counts.

Under the current system of “first past the post”, two thirds of MPs elected in 2010 did not have the majority support of their constituents  – in other words most people got the MP they did not want! This cannot be right and is profoundly undemocratic.

The following points make the case for AV:

  • Under AV redrawing of constituency boundaries becomes unnecessary ( money will be saved therefore and political gerrymandering prevented)
  • Under AV extreme and diversive candidates/parties are less likely    to gain power as they are unlikely to get many 2nd preference votes.
  • The need for tactical voting is eliminated and voters know that their vote (even through a second or third choice) will count somewhere – every vote really does count under the AV system!
  • AV lessens the need for negative campaigning, i.e. attacking other candidates, because you may need the votes of their supporters to get elected.
  • AV is already used in the leadership elections for the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties and a form of it for the Conservative Party leadership election.
  • AV is used in the House of Commons to elect UK parliamentary officials including the Chairman of Select Committees.
  • Interestingly, AV, the Alternative Vote, is used by the committee that awards the Oscars, the Academy Awards for Best Pictures.
  • AV has been used for more than 80 years in parliamentary voting in Australia.
  • AV is already used by millions to vote in membership organisatons, businesses and trade union internal elections and in most Student Union elections.
  • And lastly the AV system is used to elect the Irish President and in the USA for most City, Mayoral and district elections.

IT’ IS TIME FOR A CHANGE FOR A MUCH FAIRER SYSTEM WHERE ALL OUR VOTES COUNT AND WE ARE NOT STUCK WITH THE MPs WE DEFINITELY DON’T WANT!

PLEASE VOTE “YES” TO AV, THE ALTERNATIVE VOTE, ON THURSDAY MAY 5TH 2011

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ODD BEDFELLOWS!

And lastly, whatever the outcome of the vote, I was amused to see that the “Yes” and “No” AV campaigns produced some unlikely bedfellows.

The “rabid” Labour politician John Reid appeared on the same platform alongside “solidly conservative” David Cameron and the “scruffy gentleman” Vince Cable (Liberal Democrat) appeared alongside “learner Labour leader Mr Who?” Ed Miliband plus better known comedian Eddie Izzard.

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MORE ODD BEDFELLOWS! guardian.co.uk

We won’t see this lot agreeing very often, if ever, again!

**************************************************************

AND THE END OF BIN LADEN:

Ironically, Osama Bin Laden, who was killed by US Special Forces yesterday, was the antithesis of democracy in any form and the prophet of rule by terror, control and suppression, all in the name of Allah/God.

Few in the world, other than his supporters, will mourn the passing of a man that was directly responsible for the killing of least 3,000 people and indirectly for many more through his followers and affiliate groups.

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Osama Bin Laden - AP US

Oddly, the pictures of him always struck me as someone who had intelligence, with quite a kind face and soft brown eyes – but clearly his actions and fanaticism don’t bear that out.

Just shows what religious extremism (of any sort) can do when you can go through life justifying your actions in the name of any remote and ultimately unknowable god.

While I am glad that the hunt for Bin Laden is at an end, I felt slightly “sick” watching the “celebrations” at his reported death infront of the White House in Washington on TV. No man or woman should have an untimely and violent death, though it happens everyday.

Like everyone else, Bin Laden was an innocent child once. The big question for me as a psychotherapist is what extreme anger, violence, abuse or terrror was visited on him as a small child to turn him into the international serial killer he turned out to be?  An inability to deal with this leads men (and women) to turn their suppressed anger outwards.

And what outpourings of distorted anger, rage and violence will now be visited upon the innocent of the world in his name by his misguided followers?  The world needs to be on its guard – very much so – I fear some difficult days lie ahead.

Until the next time,

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Democracy and Human Rights l Update

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31/3/11 Peter Clifford –

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Democracy and Human Rights l Update

Over the last 3 months I have highlighted Democracy and Human Rights issues in the Ivory Coast, Libya, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China and elsewhere, so I thought it was time for an update. (See my previous post Democracy on the March)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rightsLIBYA: At the time of writing the Libya story struggles on as battles continue between the forces loyal to Gaddafi and the armed revolutionaries ranged against him. Clearly much of the world wants Gaddafi to go and many stories of human rights abuse by his troops have emerged and will continue to come out in the future.

One disturbing story this week was told by a young woman lawyer,  Iman al-Obeidi, who got through into the hotel where all the foreign journalists in Tripoli are based. She told the journalists that she had been gang – raped by 15 of Gaddafi’s troops but was quickly bundled away by officials and hotel staff before getting to tell her story in full.

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Iman al-Obeid - AVAAZ.org

At first called a “prostitute” by Libyan officials it later emerged that the Libyan Government had offered her family a house and money to keep her quiet.  She has not been seen since.

UPDATE 18th May 2011: Iman al-Obeidi apparently crossed into Tunisia earlier this month in the company of some defecting Libyan army officers and has since flown to Qatar and is safe.

To give you an idea of Gaddafi’s profound understanding of the human condition, here are a couple of extracts from his famed Green Book, the philosophical basis of the “revolution” that brought him to power:

“Freedom of expression is the right of every natural person, even if a person chooses to behave irrationally, to express his or her insanity”

“Women, like men, are human beings. This is an incontestable truth… Women are different from men in form because they are females, just as all females in the kingdom of plants and animals differ from the male of their species… According to gynaecologists women, unlike men, menstruate each month… Since men cannot be impregnated they do not experience the ailments that women do”

Yes….er…..well .!!. I think the sooner Gaddafi gives up the day job the better for all concerned in Libya, especially women!

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Gaddafi Tank destroyed

Meanwhile, do we know exactly who the opposition forces are and what are their future intentions?   “A Vision of a Democratic Libya”, just published by the Libyan Interim Transitional Council in Benghazi looks promising and there is also a useful map (though not always up to date in this fast moving situation!) on the progress of the revolution on their website too.

Moussa Koussa’s (Gaddafi’s Foreign Minister) “defection” to London is also interesting – just whose side is he on?

IVORY COAST: 11/04/11   Breaking News Update: Following overnight attacks on the heavy weapons around his compound, Laurent Gbagbo this afternoon surrendered to Ouattara’s forces and has been taken to the Golf Hotel, Ouattara’s  UN defended HQ, under arrest.

If you read my previous post Prevent War With Chocolate, you will know that the conflict in the Ivory Coast has been caused by the former president Laurent Gbagbo refusing to stand down after losing the election to his democratically elected opponent Alassane Ouattara.

AVAAZ, the pressure group, organised a campaign to get the world’s major chocolate manufacturers to, temporarily at least, boycott purchases of cocoa from the Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer, so that Gbagbo could not fund his army.

Clearly this has not worked as hostilities have now broken out between the two parties and their supporting groups and armed professionals are involved.

Ouattara’s New Forces have swept down from the North and taken over several towns, while Gbagbo, supported by the army has imported mercenaries from Liberia and shelled Ouattara supporters in Abidjan, the capital.  Atrocities are being reported on both sides.

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UN Struggle in the Ivory Coast

The people of the Ivory Coast have been here before, having suffered years of civil war prior to a ceasefire in 2007. UNHCR estimates that a million people have already fled their homes this time and a UN peacekeeping force of 9,000 stands by helplessly, under equipped and with no proper mandate to intervene.

Neighbouring countries such as Mali, Liberia and Ghana are being swamped with refugees and at least 800 people have already been killed since December. In the latest developments Ouattara’s New Forces have taken Yamoussoukro, a regional centre, and the key cocoa exporting port of San Pedro.  Gbagbo is left only with parts of Abidjan.

The United Nations has just past a UN resolution imposing sanctions on Gbagbo and his family until his sources of revenue dry up and he is forced to stand down.

Unfortunately this conflict does not have the high profile of Gaddafi and Libya, despite the fact that just as many civilians will suffer in the long run and another, once very prosperous country, will be wrecked.

TUNISIA: Mohamed BouaziziRemember that name. Mohamed was a  Tunisian street seller of fruit and vegetables who, sick to the teeth of corruption, harassment and humiliation by local officials and the police, set himself on fire on December 17th 2010 and sparked the demonstrations that led to the overthrow of the Tunisian President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the country for 23 years.

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The Revolutions Started in Tunisia

From that one act everything in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and right across the Middle East has followed and still continues.

While the interim President Fouad Mebazaa has announced the date of an election in July for representatives who will rewrite the constitution, unrest still continues and arrest warrants have been issued for the former president and his family who are believed to have fled to Saudi Arabia.

BAHRAIN: Democracy and Human Rights have been a hotly debated issue in this tiny Gulf State (100 times smaller than the Irish Republic!) since the events in Tunisia and Egypt.  Every revolution has its own particular flavour and ingredients and Bahrain is no exception.

Here there is an enormous division between the minority, ruling Sunni elite and the majority Shia population who feel dispossessed and under represented.  Median age in Bahrain is 30, while youth unemployment is almost 20%. At the same time literacy rates run at 91% – all part of the potent mix for revolution in the modern age.

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Protesters in Bahrain

The root of the problems here is that almost 70% of the population is Shia Muslim, while the nearly 30% Sunni Muslim self appointed ruling class have 90% of the power and most of the wealth and virtually all of the most valuable land.

Gerrymandered electoral districts have always ensured that the Shia electorate ended up with a minority of seats in the legislative body. Women do have the vote but very few get elected.

The ruling Al – Khalifa family has been in power since 1820 and its members still hold most of the most important government positions.  Indeed,  Sheik Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifah, the uncle of the Crown Prince, has been Prime Minister of Bahrain for 40 years! (Thank God that could never happen in the UK!).

The ruling family also contains such leading lights as Sheikh Abdulrahman Mubarak Hamad Al Khalifa who, according to the London Telegraph has been taken to court in both London and Bahrain for the repayment of gambling debts owed to the betting firm Spreadex for the princely sum of £270,000.  No doubt he worked really hard to be able to gamble away such wealth.

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Protesters Hold Pearl Roundabout

On February 14th 2011 the pot finally boiled over when protesters marched through the capital Manama and a month of unrest followed with more than 20 killed and 100’s wounded, many of whom declined to seek treatment as many doctors and staff at the world renowned Salmaniya Hospital, according to media reports, were threatened, arrested or prevented from treating protesters.

The protests are also embarassing for the US Navy as the island is also the home of its Fifth Fleet.

The Bahrain government’s answer to all this was to import 1,000 soldiers from its neighbour Saudi Arabia, suppress all further demonstration and to demolish the monument at the Pearl Roundabout which had been the focus of rebellion.

I doubt if any of that will solve the underlying problem, which is a pity as Bahrain has a reputation as one of the more “open minded” Gulf States.

YEMEN: What started as a protest by students has now escalated into a full scale insurrection. It has also, significantly, the support of a large number of women, in what has been until now a very conservative society.

On March 13th snipers killed 52 people and their families have since been offered money by the government to keep quiet.

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Protester in Yemen

The protesters are demanding that President Saleh, who has been in power for more than 30 years, stands down, along with 25 members of his family – the usual cosy family arrangement exploiting the people they control. Another more sinister factor is that Al -Quaeda certainly have a presence in the country as well.

After six weeks of protest, many people want the President put on trial, especially after the fatal sniper incident.  At the moment there is stalemate – but there is certainly more to come.

EGYPT: Egypt, though coming after the revolution in Tunisia, has undoubtedly set the standard for protesters to maintain their peaceful stance and use the sheer force of numbers to promote change.

Nevertheless and estimated 685 people were killed in the revolution here and an uneasy truce remains between the protesters and what remains of the security services and police.

Police officers are slowly returning to the streets but many are unwelcome and a number of former ministers and security officials are to stand trial for killing protesters during the unrest.

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The Domino Effect

It remains to be seen whether the controlling Army Council will carry through its promises or whether it is just going through the motions in order to protect its own interests.  They can expect an angry backlash if they don’t give the people what they want.

Parliamentary elections will take place in September and the presidential election within two months after. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose  more extreme elements many fear, has said it will not field a presidential candidate.

In my previous post, I commented on democracy and human rights in relation to Egyptian Women.  I see this as the “heart” of the Arab revolution.

Unless the rights of women change, then in reality nothing changes, the Muslim world will still be locked in the past and wasting 50% of their human resource.

FOR FURTHER UPDATES ON DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS, ESPECIALLY IN SAUDI ARABIA, SYRIA AND CHINA click CONTINUE ………

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Revolution In The West?

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Peter Clifford

16/3/11 Peter Clifford –

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REVOLUTION IN THE WEST?

Disaster in Japan:
Firstly, my thoughts go out to my friends and contacts in Japan, in fact all in Japan for the unbelievable series of disastrous events currently unfolding.  First an earthquake, then a mega tsunami and now a potential nuclear melt down in at least one power station.

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Tsunami Wrecks Japan - BBC

The tsunami pictures and tsunami videos emerging from Japan are horrendous, riveting and heartbreaking. It certainly puts our own personal problems into perspective.

Having visited Japan on many occasions over a number of years and even experienced a minor earthquake (it is very odd to wake up in the middle of the night in your hotel room to find everything, including the room itself swaying), I know that somehow the resilient Japanese people will rise to the occasion and their sense of order, organisation, family ties and discipline (often an obstacle to personal growth in other contexts) will get them through.

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Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant - BBC

In an odd way it may just be the cohesive glue that binds the Japanese together once again (as it did after World War ll ) to kick start their economy which has been in the doldrums for two decades now.  As always, chaos tears up the rule books and allows new ideas, challenges and growth to be re-born.  The current disaster in Japan will be no exception.

Revolution in the West?

In my previous post Does The Western World Have a Conscience? I touched on the possibility that Western countries themselves may not be immune to increasing discontent and protest by their citizens.

In the UK recent events suggest to me that this is even more likely than I originally thought.  Firstly, it is clear that we in the UK (and much the same applies it seems to me in the US and most of Europe) have just been subjected to the biggest government confidence trick in the last 300 years since the South Sea Bubble of 1720.

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South Sea Bubble Chart 1720 - marketoracle.co.uk

Our banks, on the verge of complete collapse because they took unacceptably stupid investment risks with their depositors money, were bailed out and rescued by the tax payers.  As a result our economy is under severe strain and the UK Government (in common with many other Western Governments) has no money, existing largely on huge loans raised through Government bonds.

But even the loans are not enough.  The Government has been forced to cut back spending in other areas.  So for the taxpayer, as thanks for bailing out the banks they have been “rewarded” with increased unemployment, fewer jobs, reduced benefits, cuts in services, house repossessions, increased food and petrol costs, tax increases and a lower standard of living.  In other words a completely bum deal!

At the same time, the banks, several of whom are now partly owned by the taxpayer, have bounced back into renewed profitability and rewarded their directors and senior staff with billions of pounds in bonuses.

Not just a reasonable thank you and a pat on the bank, but obscene amounts of money and packages for some individuals totalling many millions of pounds – the same individuals in many cases whose previous actions and decisions dragged Britain and many other countries into their worst ever recession.

Additionally, there has always been a class divide in the UK between those born into and educated in privileged circumstances and the rest.  Now there is an even bigger divide between the bulk of the population and not just the privileged but controlling minority, but the moneyed classes too.

Latest statistics indicate that the very rich, despite the recession, are getting richer.  Money not only buys comfort and insulates against price and tax increases but it also provides power.

Traditionally in the UK, the poor and powerless have been the working class.  Now the well educated in the middle class income range are feeling poor and powerless too – and that, for the authorities, is where the danger lies.

An angry middle class knows how to organise and agitate and are extremely knowledgeable in using the Internet, social media and modern communication systems (as has been successfully demonstrated recently in the Arab world – see Arab World in Revolt).

The working class will be only too happy to join them.  Once they start agitating together they won’t give up until they get a result and the government is forced into a climb down and concessions.  The soundness of Western democracy may well  be truly tested.

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Student Protests London 2011 - demotix.com

We have already seen some serious reaction to future increases in student tuition fees. The recent student demonstrations were large, consistent and often violent and destructive.  I believe we have seen nothing yet.

Recent expenditure cuts announced by the UK Government will result in job losses to police officers and many police support workers, health and hospital workers ( “NHS efficiency measures” are just cuts by another name), firemen and many public sector workers employed by County, District and City Councils throughout the country.

To add insult to injury the Government has just announced an end to final salary and inflation – proof pensions for public sector workers as well (though this is long overdue in my view) and it looks as though some people will have to work harder and longer in order to get a smaller pension than they would have got previously. All fuel for the fire.

Many small businesses and self – employed people like myself are also feeling the pinch.  Services that we supplied and were formerly valued necessities for keeping life on track are suddenly, in a severe recession, luxuries that people can no longer afford.

And just to annoy the majority further, many of those who are making these decisions at both a national and regional level keep telling us that we must “all share the pain”.

I doubt the 18 millionaires in Mr. Cameron’s UK coalition cabinet with a reported personal net asset worth of £50 million are feeling much economic “pain”.

I doubt whether the toffs currently running the Labour Party and the vast majority (though not all) making the same decisions at a regional level, whatever their political persuasion, are feeling the “pain” either.

I also doubt that almost any of them are checking their wallets and bank balances every time they go to buy food and petrol as many of the rest of us do now.

Simon of Sudbury:

Many years ago, when I was a young choir boy singing in the local church, one of our occasional “treats” was when the vicar unlocked the the little door in the vestry wall so that we could gaze upon the mummified head of Simon Theobald, known as Simon of Sudbury.

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Simon of Sudbury - sudburyhistorysociety.co.uk

The head is still there and this week it is to be RSI scanned at a local hospital so that a team at Dundee University can have a go at reconstructing what he actually looked like.  While the head still rests in the church, Simon’s body is entombed in Canterbury Cathedral.

The reason why this is relevant and significant here is that Simon Theobold was not only a former Archbishop of Canterbury and Chaplain to Pope Innocent Vl but rose to be Lord Chancellor of England in 1379 and became responsible, among other things, for making financial decisions for the English economy (George Osborne is the current UK Chancellor responsible for dealing with much the same problems).

In the 1340’s the Black Death, one of the worst pandemics the world has ever seen, swept across Europe and depleted the UK population by an estimated one third, causing a massive shortage of labour. As a result the remaining working population had to work harder for no increased recompense.

Simon of Sudbury, as Lord Chancellor, made the mistake of increasing the Poll Tax (to help a struggling economy and to finance the government’s military adventures overseas), probably on the orders of an unaware ruling elite, for the third time in four years.

This was too much for a struggling working population and the Peasants Revolt of 1381 resulted in a march on London from several directions.

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Richard ll speaks to the Peasants Revolt

The outcome was an attack by the peasants on the Tower of London and the execution of Simon Theobald, the Lord Chancellor, on Tower Bridge where his head was displayed on a spike and from where it was later recovered.

There must be a warning there somewhere!  You can only push the population so far before they will react to perceived injustice – often violently.

I think the UK, and possibly other Western democracies, are in for a long, hot summer of discontent.  Time will tell if I am right or not……

Until the next time,

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Does The Western World Have a Conscience? l Egyptian Women

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28/1/11 Peter Clifford –

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Does The Western World Have A Conscience?

As protest and revolution rumbles on across North Africa and through the Middle East and beyond, I can’t help wondering what is the role of Western countries in all of this?

Pausing just long enough to test which way the wind was blowing, western society has been quick to take up the side of the protestors and to support them verbally and morally at least.

And the western digital world (hail Facebook, Twitter and Youtube) has clearly been instrumental in aiding the protesters to spread their message rapidly and effectively and to give them a platform to air there grievances. It has also made fascinating and often gripping news for all of us westerners  sitting safely at home.

In western civilisation we like to promote democracy, freedom of self expression, the rule of law, protection of the disadvantaged etc. and quite rightly so.  However, at the same time western governments have a habit of cosying up to any government or dictatorial and repressive regime whom they want something from.

If your country has vast resources of oil or minerals which the West needs in order to fuel its economies, or there is the potential for rich trade opportunities, then it is very likely, no matter how repressive your regime, that you will get a call from western leaders and their ministers inviting you to do business.

It is extremely easy for governments in the western world to condemn repressive regimes that they do not, at present, want anything from e.g the military government in Burma, the communist regime in Cuba or nuclear threatening Iran.

It is also extremely easy it seems to embrace two way trade with China while at the same time completely ignoring its suppressive behaviour towards the people and culture of Tibet.

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East - West Togetherness

Not only do western governments turn a blind eye to the behaviour of the oppressive regimes they choose to do business with but the cherished keystone values of western culture i.e. freedom, justice and equality go completely out of the window at the first sniff of a trade deal.

Not only do western nations love buying oil and other resources from repressive regimes that practice detention without trial, torture and political imprisonment but they love selling them the arms and weapons to carry out this oppression effectively!

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Libyan Dancing Partners

One of their best customers, since his rehabilitation in 2004, has been Colonel Gaddafi who is now undoubtedly using those same weapons against his own people. And the The Irish Government, in their recent acute financial crisis even sent their financial representatives to Libya to try and secure multi – billion dollar loans from Gaddafi’s International Investment Fund!

Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia for example, women are still not allowed to drive a car or go out alone and at the first hint of protest opposition leaders are hauled in for questioning, yet the West craves their oil and sells them (in particular the US, the UK and other western European governments) vast amounts of weaponry. No doubt it offsets the oil trade deficit.

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UK PM in Tahrir Sq. Cairo

David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, was very quick this week to visit Egypt and a number of other undemocratic regimes in the Middle East with pro-democracy protestors making themselves heard currently on a daily basis.

It was rather bizarre therefore to see him striding across Tahrir Square in Cairo with a gaggle of British businessmen in tow, eight of whom represented British arms and weapons systems manufacturers.  No doubt US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, President Obama and other western leaders are all ready making their travel plans.

But are their also deeper lessons in all this for the West? These arab world revolutions have been led by their disaffected youth, the so called Facebook generation. In some western countries our youth are also equally angry.

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Student Protests London 2011

Witness the anger of students in the UK recently at the Coalition Government’s decision to increase university fees – fierce and destructive demonstrations in the streets of London and elsewhere over a number of days.

Currently the UK unemployment rate for 16 – 24 year olds is 20% and rising under the present harsh economic climate. I hope the UK’s senior politicians, many of whom are millionaires and telling us “we must all share the (economic) pain” are seriously taking note of the consequences of complacency.

Democracy Is ……..

……. the right to make fun of your ruling elite without fear of reprisal or a knock on the door from the Security Services.

So on a lighter {!} note, can someone tell me why so many Middle Eastern potentates seem to be critically overweight?  A great business opportunity for WeightWatchers perhaps?

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Royal Wedding Sick Bag - copyright Linda Leith

And British designer Lydia Leith as an andidote to all the somewhat questionable quality of the memorabilia currently in full production for the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and his fiance, Kate Middleton, this coming April, has produced the Royal Wedding Sick Bag, in case you want to “Throne up”!  As they are of a certain age I think the Royal couple are laughing at this one themselves – at least I hope so, and I wish them every sucess with their marriage.

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Uniform Kitsch

In Libya, we can but pray that Gaddafi’s uniform designer has now got the sack and that the rest of his administration will follow soon.

And lastly, clearly the Arab world is catching on quickly to the idea of freedom of self expression with this effort recently posted on YouTube – Colonel Gaddafi’s recent “clayman” rant turned into “DJ Gaddafi Rocks” Zenga Zenga!

EGYPTIAN WOMEN:

Without wishing to be cynical, as I expressed in my last post, I am not entirely convinced that the ruling Army Council in Egypt will let go of the reins of power easily, despite making some of the right noises.  Certainly, when it comes to the rights of Egyptian women, they still do not seem to have got the message.

This week in Cairo, the Army Council appointed a judge, Tarik al-Bishry to set up a Constitutional Panel to draw up a new constitution for the country. Bishry then went on to choose all the members of the Panel himself, not one of which was a woman.

One of the appointees was a Christian Copt, who represent 10% of the Egyptian population.  Women  in Egypt, of course, represent 50% of the country’s population but that still does not gain them the right apparently to having a say in shaping the future of the new state.

http:www.petercliffordonline.com/conscience

Women Protesters Tahrir Sq. Cairo

Worryingly, in a survey conducted in Egypt shortly before the recent revolution 90% of those who took part still thought stoning for adultery was a “good idea”.

Similarly, in Malaysia on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, hotels in Kuala Lumpur were raided by the “religious enforcement police” and over 80 people detained for being unmarried and sharing a room or being “alone and in close proximity to a member of the opposite sex”. They can expect up to two years in prison if convicted. The law does not apply to non – muslims.

Clearly, for muslim women in particular and arabic women in general throughout the entire world the Revolution is only just about to begin.

Until the next time,

www.petercliffordonline.com

 

Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com

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Arab World In Revolt

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Peter Clifford

21/2/11 Peter Clifford –

www.petercliffordonline.com:

ARAB WORLD IN REVOLT

I was going to write my next post on something completely different from politics but the pro-democracy protests across the muslim world have continued to dominate the headlines and I feel compelled to comment further on what looks like (potentially) the most significant and powerful revolutionary movement seen in decades.

Firstly, congratulations to the people of Egypt, who not only got rid of Mubarak but succeeded in what has been, so far, a relatively peaceful transition towards democracy, with minimal deaths and injuries (though no less painful for the families and friends involved).

Whether the full transition to free and fair parliamentary elections and a true democracy with an independent judiciary, police and army continues, remains to be seen.

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Egyptian Army Helped - AP via BBC

At the moment, the government of Egypt is in the hands of an army council, who to their credit enabled the revolution by refusing to be heavyhanded with protesters. However, governing army generals have a habit of developing a thirst for power, once tasted, and frequently annoint one of their number as the next president. Let’s hope better sense and justice prevails in Cairo.

Another interesting sideline to the Egyptian revolution is that the London Telegraph reports that the Mubarak family spent the 18 days preceding the President’s resignation moving vast amounts of money around the world and into safer havens where they continue to have access. Estimates vary from $7 billion to £70 billion.

Even if its the lower figure, this is an obscene amount of money to be accumulated by one family and undoubtedly obtained through corruption and the misuse of power. I hope that the new Egptian authorities go to great lengths to recover it and return it to where it belongs – in the service of widespread social welfare and reform in a country that badly needs it.

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Bahrain Pearl Square - AFP

In my previous article on these extraordinary events (Democracy On The March) I asked the question – where next? Almost everywhere across North Africa and the Middle East and even further afield to East Africa and China, it appears that people are taking up the flame of courage from those in Tunisia and Egypt and carrying it forward, realising, perhaps for the first time, that there is enormous power in the scaling up of numbers.

Vast hordes of angry citizens, even if unarmed, terrify suppressive authorities it seems.   And rightly so.  The moment you suppress anyone you create the seed of anger and resistance that given the right nutrients will grow and expand into an unstoppable force, in the same way that fragile plants force themselves millisecond by millisecond, relentlessly, through concrete.

Clearly the most significant “nutrient” in the current political “soup” is the widespread use and access to, the Internet and the mobile phone network. The more these come into common usage and integrate themselves, one system with another, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, the Web itself, smartphones etc, the more difficult it becomes for repressive governments to control the information coming into and going out of their countries.

This is as it should be. The whole point of democratic systems is the protection of the rights of its citizens to freedom of expression and free access to information.

It is the young everywhere which have realised the potential and taken rapidly to the advantages of mobile communication. You may not have a job or much of a future under the prevailing system, but if you can talk to thousands of people about it there is the opportunity for creative change. The older generations, including myself, have been slow to realise this.

Watching celebrities making fatuous remarks on Twitter seemed like a huge waste of everyone’s time to me. Using Twitter to rapidly promote interest in this blog has been far more interesting and effective.

Clearly, it is how you use modern technology that makes a difference. The fact that in Libya for example the median age is 24.2 and the literacy rate is 88% adds power to the process.

www.petercliffordonline.com

Protestors in Libya - Yahoo.com

Unsurprisingly, this electronic freedom to communicate scares repressive authorities half to death. Egypt tried shutting down the Internet, but then discovered it shut down business as well. Colonel Gaddafi in Libya is trying the same thing, in a country notorious for its lack of access to independent reporting.

Yesterday, the Chinese President Hu Jintao called for “stricter government management of the internet”. China’s Twitter website equivalent,”Weibo”, run by Sina.com, blocked discussion of Egypt and over the weekend, message chains using the Chinese word for “Jasmine” – as in the Jasmine Revolutions in the Middle East – were blocked as well.

This will not do gentlemen, the seeds against repression have already germinated and are growing fast.

If you would like to support freedom of communication in the circumstances described above, link with AVAAZ in their latest campaign to supply independent broadcasting equipment to pro-democracy groups worldwide ( I have supported previous AVAAZ campaigns on saving Sakineh Mohammedi Astiani from death by stoning and helping to bring about democratic change in the Ivory Coast)

Meanwhile, protests continue in Benghazi and elsewhere in Libya, in Algeria, in Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Syria,Yemen, Iran, China and the former French colony of Djibouti, just across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen.  Former President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union has even suggested it could happen there.

There have also been further deaths and demonstrations in the Ivory Coast where the losing presidential candidate Laurent Gbagbo refuses to stand down after three months.

Interesting times, which I will continue to watch closely. Particularly as it all may have significant messages for Western governments as well.

*********************

GUA AFRICA:

My support of Emmanuel Jal’s charity Gua Africa continues throughout February and by using any of my Amazon links I will ensure that 10% of any commission I earn goes to support Emmauel’s work with the child victims of war (your Amazon prices remain as normal). Thank you to all of you who have supported us so far.

Incidentally, southern Sudan which is where Emmanual Jal originates from (see previous posts South Sudan Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) has decided simply on the name South Sudan when it moves to full independence on July 9th, following on from the referendum last month.

www.petercliffordonline.com

South Sudan Flag - BBC

The road to freedom is still not without serious problems as 200 people were killed this month in an attack by rebel leader George Athor in Jonglei State.  Hopefully, peaceful solutions can still be found to end Athor’s conflict with the government.

Until the next time,

www.petercliffordonline.com

 

Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com

TO HAVE YOUR SAY SCROLL DOWN & CLICK ON ” COMMENT” IN THE GREY PANEL

If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link – http://bit.ly/petercliff – onto your friends.

Lastly, don’t forget to sign up (Top Right) for my mailing list for future information, advice, tips and reviews – for a limited time only there is a FREE copy of my 40 page ebook on “Love Relationships – The 10 Step Guide” which I have written especially for this website.