The Songlines Encounters Festival at King’s Place, York Way, London N1 Thursday 4th – Saturday 6th June 2015 The fifth Songlines Encounters Festival features musicians from Portugal, Cyprus, Iran, ...
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This book review was originally published in the Quarterly Journal of the GANDHI PEACE FOUNDATION, Gandhi Marg, Volume 37 Number 1 April-June 2015, pp 191-200. The review published here has had a few minor typing errors corrected.
An Oedipal Crime reviewed by Antony Copley (PDF file)
LORD PUTTNAM OF QUEENSGATE CBE
Address given at Memorial Service for
Lord Attenborough, CBE
On Tuesday 17 March 2015
As you’ll have gathered from his ‘maiden speech’, Richard was in most respects pretty radical; yet he adored ‘ceremonial’ – he loved tradition; ‘occasions’ – the bigger the better. And he was really good at them.
I’m certain that few things in his long and celebrated life would have given him more pleasure than to be with us here today.
He loved playing roles like Sir William Cecil, and would have relished being just a few yards from the tomb of the Queen that courtier served so well.
In trying to do justice to a man I both admired and loved, and aware that the triumphant peaks of his career, and contributions to public life, are well known to all of you – it feels right to not simply speak about him, but also to try and speak for him, for he was a man who thought and cared deeply – a man for whom there was any amount of ‘unfinished business’.
Time after time he tried to draw our attention to things he felt were being misunderstood or overlooked – none more so than the fragility of democracy, and the endless struggle to assert the rights of the citizen, which among other things drove his unfulfilled ambition to breath cinematic life into ‘Tom Paine’.
It’s what drove Gandhi, and ‘Cry Freedom’; it can be seen in ‘Oh, What a Lovely War’, ‘The Angry Silence’, ‘I’m All Right Jack’ – and many, many more.
Here are three stories which, in their different ways, offer a glimpse of the effect Richard Attenborough had on people.
The first was recounted to me a few years ago by Michael Grade, and concerns Richard’s unique and indefatigable way of extracting support for causes he cared about.
Michael received a phone-call one day from his uncle, Lord Delfont, the theatre impresario.
“Michael, Dickie Attenborough’s coming in to see me this afternoon – what do you think he might want?”
“Well Bernie, I know he’s looking for support for RADA, so it could be a scholarship – something like that”.
“Oh, I see; well business isn’t great at the moment, so I’ll have to take a bit of a firm line with him.”
“Well, good luck with that Bernie, let me know how you get on.”
That evening Michael receives another call.
“Oh, hello Bernie, how did it go with Dickie.”
I think I did very well Michael, very well, I got away with a quarter of a million!”
As Michael says, “who could ever say no to Dickie?”
The second story illustrates a somewhat different side to his character.
Richard was very anxious about the reception Gandhi might receive in India.
Nothing could have been more nerve-wracking than the press conference that followed the first screening in Delhi.
Initially the journalists and critics seemed a little subdued, waiting for someone to break the silence.
Eventually a well-respected, but rather didactic woman spoke up who clearly had a few ‘issues’ with the film.
“Why on earth did you make it Sir Richard; for many of us Gandhi is a deity; watching this humble man wandering around in a loincloth can only diminish him”.
Richard, a little confused, asked how she would have preferred the Mahatma to have been portrayed.
“As a moving light Sir Richard, a light, a light that illuminates our lives”.
Richard thought for a moment and replied, “I think there must be some confusion Madam, I wasn’t making a film about bloody ‘Tinkerbell’.”
The tension broke, the audience collapsed with laughter, and all was well from there on in.
As someone who worked hard to ensure the creation and positioning of the statue to Nelson Mandela, Richard’s heart would have leapt for joy last week when the statue to Gandhi was similarly unveiled, across the road in Parliament Square.
The last story concerns an occasion at which I was actually present.
In June 1990, at the invitation of Margaret Thatcher, Richard led a small delegation to Downing Street for a morning seminar on the untapped economic opportunity represented by the British Film Industry.
It was the first time we’d had a chance to set out the stall of what we now habitually refer to as the ‘Creative Industries’.
A number of us, rather nervously, gave presentations under the watchful gaze of Treasury officials, who rightly guessed that this could be the prelude to an attack on their wallets!
Their concern turned to alarm when, in response to Mrs Thatcher’s question: “Why, Sir Richard, has it taken so long for us to get together”;
he replied – “because you’d never asked me darling”!
As well as being a wise man Richard was also a wonderful friend.
He only wanted what was best for you – and would always go the extra mile if he could ensure a successful outcome.
His passion was of course ‘cinema’, and were he with us today he’d make clear the high expectations he always had for the medium; of how film has the power to locate our ‘inner world’, to release our best, and remind us of our very worst impulses – allowing us to experience them through the lives of others – bigger, braver and more illuminating on the screen.
In a sense Richard asked quite a lot of the audience – but he gave back even more.
In Gandhi he encouraged us to remember how noble we can be;
in ‘Cry Freedom’, how courageous; in ‘Shadowlands’, how compassionate; and in ‘Oh, What A Lovely War’, how foolish.
In ‘Chaplin’ he illustrated the way in which Cinema discovered it could reflect back our own ‘sense of identity’.
As to that ‘unfinished business’; he’d certainly have wanted to remind us what a tragedy it would be should we fail to build on cinema’s potential to bring a greater sense of ‘humanity’ to the world, rather than capitulating to the belief that it’s ‘only about the money’.
So, gifted, loyal, tenacious – but also deeply sensitive.
The bedrock of Richard’s life, more even than his talent, was his marriage.
Sheila was the centrifugal force around which the whirl of his life rotated.
Her well-being, and the happiness of the family were his constant priority.
I find that best evidenced in what I believe to be his finest directorial work – ‘Shadowlands’.
Anthony Hopkins, as CS Lewis, is utterly distraught as his wife, played by Debra Winger, is losing her final battle with cancer.
Scenes as good and as true as this don’t happen by accident, they are the perfect combination of story, script and performance, all serving the instincts of a remarkably intuitive director.
When watching it, if your own heart isn’t wrenched to breaking point, it’s possible that you yourself have never truly been in love – for me it’s one of those moments in which cinema magically fuses art with life – making them indistinguishable.
As Debra Winger says at the end of that scene: “there’s no more pretending”.
There is no more pretending, we’ve lost a kind and greatly loved man.
Here is Richard, with a little help from William Shakespeare, speaking of love and life in his own very special way.
(1,195 words – 8 minutes)
For Immediate Release
The stark reality is that there are still around 2,500 Rohingya who are stranded in the Andaman Sea. Their exact location is unknown. Their exact number is unknown and the condition of those on board is unknown.
The families they’ve left behind, their compatriots who have managed to reach shores, their extended families who are overseas are known as the ‘forgotten people’; the Rohingya, an ethnic group who Burma whole-heartedly, vehemently and violently reject as rightful citizens.
In recent days, some sovereign nations have made offers of support for the Rohingya though not all have been absolutely viable. Take for example Malaysia and Indonesia’s change of heart, when under mounting pressure from the international community, they said they would accept any Rohingya who arrived on their shores from the Andaman Sea. The caveat here being that no assistance would be offered in helping the Rohingya get to their shores. Most of the vessels had been abandoned by their human trafficking captains and crew and so many were and still are unable to find land. Further, the Indonesian and Malaysian Governments imposed a timeline of 12 months for the Rohingya to be resettled elsewhere. The concept of Burma repatriating the stranded Rohingya from the custody of Indonesia and Malaysia is a non-starter.
Then there was an offer from The Gambia to resettle all 8,000 stranded. If the vessels struggle to find land a mere 500km from their locations it is highly unlikely they will be able to navigate their wooden fishing boats through the Indian ocean all the way to a small port country in Western Africa.
An offer of search and rescue by the US was ruled out by Thai authorities who did not want foreign forces in their waters.
And then came the ASEAN meeting of May 29th. Many had hoped that this would be an opportunity to finally assert some pressure on Burma to accept responsibility. The meeting also had US, UN and other observers, however, with a lack of political gusto in terms of leaders, the Burmese spokesman cowered the UNHCR’s opening remarks into a corner. The term Rohingya was not used. There was no solution. There was no roadmap. There remains no solution.
‘It is essential that as members of a global community we continue to approach our local leaders to push Governments to lobby against and apply diplomatic pressure on Burma to reach a parity of human rights treatment and grant the Rohingya citizenship.’ is the message from Mabrur Ahmed, Director of Restless Beings.
Issuing a rallying call to activists and supports, Ahmed continued, ‘Our voices of concern and support must be continuous. The reality is there are still 2,500 stranded at sea. There are more than 100,000 facing daily misery in the camps of Sittwe. And there is an excess of 1 million people who have no home, no rights and no citizenship. We can not afford to remain silent.’
Restless Beings is a UK based international human rights organisation. We are currently working on interactive campaigns which supporters can be a part of. We are also working alongside a number of other individuals and organsiations to ensure that awareness is raised continuously and that the lobby for Rohingya rights is sustained.
In 1931, two of the world’s most celebrated and influential men met in a house in Canning Town.
Now the historic meeting has been marked with a specially created garden near to the site where it took place, a since demolished house in Beckton Road that belonged to a friend of Gandhi.
Read the full article in the Newham Recorder:
International delegates from five continents sign the
Declaration of the World Uranium Symposium
Québec, 22 April 2015.
On Earth Day, international delegates from five continents signed the Declaration of the World Uranium Symposium, calling on all nations to put an end to the mining and use of uranium, the first link in the nuclear fuel chain for both civilian and military uses.
Some 300 experts, members of civil society and indigenous peoples from around the world, meeting recently at the Symposium in Quebec City, launched this global appeal. The Government of Quebec will shortly be making a decision whether to maintain the existing moratorium against uranium mining in Quebec. “In the aftermath of the World Uranium Symposium, we are all agreed that the risks to health, safety, and the environment represented by the entire nuclear fuel chain – from uranium mines, to power reactors, to nuclear weapons, to radioactive wastes – greatly exceed the potential benefits for society,” stated Dr. Eric Notebaert, associate professor at the University of Montreal, copresident of the Symposium, and member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE).
A Declaration resulting from a consensus
“The issuing of this World Declaration on Uranium is the culmination of essential work carried out over many years by international coalitions who, despite geographical and cultural differences, share common objectives and who desire to shape a common vision of a better world,” declared Dr. Juan Carlos Chrigwin, a physician affiliated with McGill University who is also president of Physicians for Global Survival.
“We are calling on national and international leaders to protect our planet and our populations from any further nuclear catastrophes. Anything less would be irresponsible,” added Dr. Dale Dewar, physician, associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan, co-president of the Symposium, and author of the book From Hiroshima to Fukushima to You. The Declaration of the World Uranium Symposium was finalized over the last week. It is a call to
action, urging governments to ban the mining and processing of uranium, to eliminate the use of nuclear energy, and to renounce nuclear weapons.
This Declaration was signed in Quebec City 72 years after the Quebec Agreement was drawn up in the same city in 1943 by the United States and Britain, in collaboration with Canada, an agreement which led to the building of the world’s first nuclear weapons. Two of the resulting ABombs were later used to destroy the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Quebec is urged to maintain its moratorium and show global leadership
“Quebec made the right decision in 2013 when it shut down its only nuclear power plant. We are now asking the Quebec government to take the next step and join the ranks of other jurisdictions, like Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Virginia, who are leading the world by freeing themselves completely from the nuclear fuel chain,” said Dr. Gordon Edwards from the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.
“Uranium does not provide a viable or sustainable approach for dealing with climate change, nor for providing isotopes for medical use. Today there are a number of medical and energy alternatives that are cheaper and safer,” asserts Dr. Chirgwin.
In May 2015, the Bureau d’audiences sur l’environnement (BAPE) will be depositing its report on uranium mining issues, with recommendations to the government of Quebec. The government must then decide whether or not to maintain the existing moratorium. All the indigenous peoples of Quebec – the Inuit, the Cree, and the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador – are opposed to any uranium mining on their territory. The same can be said for over 300 Quebec municipalities and MRCs, as well as many non-governmental organizations representing civil society (see, for example:www.quebecsansuranium.org).
It is possible to sign and endorse the Declaration online: http://www.uranium2015.com/en and http://www.uranium2015.com/declaration-en
Latest in a long line of abuses against the Rohingya
a piece by Mabrur Ahmed
Co-Director & Co-Founder ~ RestlessBeings
Over time it’s very easy to become desensitised to reports which relay ‘the number of dead..’ or ‘the number of displaced..’ etc when we face a barrage of humanitarian disasters, war torn communities and the like on a daily basis. But when you hear about the same community facing the same abuses but just on increasing scales over the period of a generation, more than 50 years, and there is a general apathy towards their silent suffering, we must awaken our senses that we live in a world that readily bows down to fast cars, fast fashion and now seemingly fast news.
I oversimplified the latest scenario of the plight of the Burmese Rohingya earlier in a Facebook post to make the issue as easy to digest as possible. For context sake, this a copy:
Rohingya since June 2012 have been systematically moved towards IDP camps where the conditions are beyond appalling. As a last resort, the Rohingya have tried to flee these conditions and as Bangladesh have strictly denied access beyond their borders, they are faced with no alternative but to travel to Malaysia and Indonesia who have been typically receptive towards Rohingya migrants. In order to get there though, they have to often pass Thailand. Many human traffickers have in the past intercepted the boats and then taken Rohingya captive in ‘slave camps’. the traffickers then hold the captives families to ransom, if they pay up they are passed to other traffickers who take them onward. if they don’t pay, they are beaten and many have been killed. a few days back mass graves were found of those killed by the traffickers. The Thai authorities are now stringently pushing boats on and not allowing to come to Thailand. In previous months, Rohingya boats have then gone on to Malaysia and Indonesia. Over the weekend about 1500 or so landed in Aceh in Indonesia and Langkawi in Malaysia. As a result, Malaysia and Indonesia have now said they will not allow any boats of Rohingya in. This means those boats can’t head back to Burma where the brutal leadership would punish unbearably, they cant risk being in the custody of the murderous traffickers in Thailand and they cant go to Bangladesh where they have been aggresively turned away for the past 2 years. So their fate? Almost certain death in the Andaman sea.
And what is being done about it? Nothing. No international pressure, no regional political pressure, no mainstream media coverage. Nothing.
And the saddest thing of this latest crisis the Rohingya face is the absolute silence from political powers, media outlets and even global aid agencies. The reality is the Rohingya issue is simply not ‘fast news’ enough. It doesn’t have an immediate threat on any Western powers. It doesn’t have any resonance with petro-dollars. It doesn’t even have any bearing on Government within Burma. And because there is no monetary, geographical or political motivation, the lives of Rohingya are not controversial enough to report or to act upon or to rush to assistance.
But the reality is that there is approximately 6,000 Rohingya men, women and children who are stranded in the Andaman Sea who do not have enough space to lie down on their broken fishing boats where up to 500 are crammed. There is no where for them to use the toilet with dignity. There is no water to drink. There is no food to eat. They can see the shores of Aceh and Langkawi. And they hear the Malaysian and Indonesian authorities say that are not welcome on shore, not even for medical attention. There is no chatter or cries on these boats. There is just silence. And a realisation that they will lose their lives at sea. That their silence is reciprocated by the world, our political leaders and our media. The lives of these 6,000 will not change anything politically, monetarily or geographically.
But our silence will forever have an impact on their humanity.
Mabrur Ahmed, Co-Director & Co-Founder ~ RestlessBeings
‘Adivasi Campaign’ demands rejection of the Land Acquisition Ordinance, 2014
By Gladson Dungdung
In order to address historic injustices committed against mainly indigenous peoples of India under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, the Government of India enacted the ‘Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013’ (LARRA) on 27 September, 2013 and the Rules for the LARRA on 19 December, 2013. The present BJP led National Democratic Alliance government introduced an ordinance on 31st December 2014 to amend the LARRA. The Ordinance set aside the five major safeguards – social impact assessment, mandatory consent of the affected people, provisions to safeguard food security of the communities, punishment to the government officials and returning of unutilised land to the original land owners.
These amendments effectively reintroduced the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 and ought to be rejected.
To read the full article and reasons why these amendments should be rejected click here
Gladson Dungdung is a human rights activist and writer and lives in Jharkhand, India