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Press Release: No Solution in Sight For Rohingya

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.

http://www.restlessbeings.org/projects/rohingya/no-solution-in-sight-for-rohingya-crisis

Gandhi Chaplin Memorial Garden Opened in Canning Town, London

Gandhi mosaic

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:

http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/gandhi_chaplin_memorial_garden_opened_in_canning_town_1_4082339

The Latest in a Long Line of Abuses Against the Rohingya

brick lane rohingya

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
Email: mabrur@restlessbeings.org

Twitter: http://twitter.com/restlessmabrur
http://www.restlessbeings.org/
http://www.facebook.com/RestlessBeings

‘Adivasi Campaign’ demands rejection of the Land Acquisition Ordinance, 2014 By Gladson Dungdung

Gladson Dungdung

Gladson Dungdung

‘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

www.adivasirights.org

Gladson Dungdung is a human rights activist and writer and lives in Jharkhand, India

Songlines Encounters Music Festival

Shikor Bangladesh All Stars

Shikor Bangladesh All Stars

 

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, the UK and Bangladesh. There are some UK premieres, some first time collaborations and lots of supremely inspirational music from artists that have impressed us at Songlines magazine. We will welcome some great female voices – Gisela João from Portugal and Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat from Iran, alongside sublime Scottish fiddling, and brilliant roots music from Bangladesh, both alone and in collaboration with London’s own Lokkhi Terra. And for the first time a night of very danceable live Afro-electronica from Afriquoi and the chance for children to discover klezmer and Balkan music with the help of the talented musicians of She’Koyokh. As ever with Songlines Encounters, the idea is to discover something new – and memorable. – Simon Broughton (Songlines Editor-in-Chief)

The Shikor Bangladesh All Stars features seven of the country’s best traditional musicians. There’s folk singer Baby Akhtar, a specialist in songs from all over the country, spectacular dhol drummer Nazrul Islam and the maestro of Baul music Rob Fakir, who lives near the shrine of the most celebrated (19th C) Baul poet Lalon Fakir. For the first time in the UK, the All Stars will present a vivid sample of the country’s vibrant folk heritage.

In the second part, the Shikor Bangladesh All Stars will join London’s superb Anglo-Bangladeshi Afrobeat Latin group Lokkhi Terra, with pianist Kishon Khan and vocalists Sohini Alam and Aanon Siddiqua, to bring Songlines Encounters 2015 to a rousing conclusion.

For more information and booking: http://www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on-book-tickets/curated-weeks/songlines-encounters-festival-2015#.VUm0IflVikp

The London Pacifism and Nonviolence Discussion Group

 

london pacifismThe London Pacifism and Nonviolence Discussion Group are meeting soon to discuss:

Nonviolence and Nuclear Power on Tuesday 9th June 2015

Your thoughts on these topics are welcome, in advance and (especially) on the day.

The group meets on the second Tuesday each month, at 7pm (until around 9pm)
at Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, Kings Cross, London N1.
Nearest tube: Kings Cross

Please try to arrive promptly by 7pm.

Everyone with an interest in pacifism and nonviolence is welcome.

The next meetings will be:

Nonviolence and Cinema on Tuesday 14 July 2015

For more information about the meetings: http://londonpacifismnonviolence.wordpress.com

Thanksgiving Service for Lord Attenborough – A Personal View by John Rowley 22nd March 2015

Richard Attenborough at Kingsley Hall 1996

Richard Attenborough at Kingsley Hall 1996

Poppy, Judith and I arrived in The Abbey Forecourt at 11am. It was already seething with people laughing and smiling and a long queue snaking through security. William Rhind was there and took our spare ticket for Mark Hoda. Martin Polden was already in the queue and Diana Schumacher had taken her seat right in the front row at the Crossing [where the nave intersects the transept].

I am on two missions. The first is to spot members of the theatrical elite and, if the moment occurs, get into a conversation. Poppy has her card. Didn’t happen then but did later. My second was to ask as many as I politely could, what do you think of Trevor Griffith’s screen play for “Tom Paine”? Do you think the funds could be raised now?” This was Richard’s last but sadly not completed project. Michael Grade reckons he spent more time on this than he did on “Gandhi”. The script has been universally praised [including Tom Stoppard, David Puttnam and Kurt Vonnegut]. I have since learned that there are now two films due on Tom Paine: one is in the final stages of production in Hollywood and the other, to be directed by Dick Fontaine, is being offered to potential funders. Let’s hope both prove to be the urgently needed reminder of the power of democracy.

You are transformed the moment you walk through The Abbey’s portal. You are suddenly enveloped in a sacred space. Its stupendous vault almost sucks your eyes up, the grace of the falling ribs drawing them down, down, down the elegant, heaven-reaching arcade of columns and slim sunlit windows to the polished nave stones beneath your feet. Just above the heads of those in front, you glimpse the glistening gold of the altar, far away and tiny through the sparkling gold rood screen. You begin your approach to the sacred centre; the holiest of the holy which explains all to believers. The quiet murmurings around you are respectful of this, the fleeting eye contacts are open, welcoming and bonding, dress codes and uniforms of the humblest best.

You follow the others slowly down the aisle, scanning the hundreds of faces on either side, many already gazing at you. Do I recognise any? Not until Michael Caine sitting front row right in the transept. Diana must have been on the left because my eyes were glued on him! The lives you can see in that face in seconds…

‘Only connect’ and here you can. ‘The Times’ published a complete list the next day.

We three were sat some 20 rows behind them and we had the most extraordinary encounters. First of all, there was William Blake looking right at us, the light on the bronze making him scowl and thoughtful at the same time. I was a Trustee of The Blake Society for a few years. In 1791, Tom Paine followed William Blake’s advice to give the manuscript of “The Rights of Man” to the brave printer, J S Jordan, and to then quickly leave for Paris where he was welcomed into the ‘inner circle’.

A laugh behind me made me turn and was happily included. He turns out to be Lord Watson, previously Financial Correspondent for the BBC but, for decades, Richard’s next door neighbour in Richmond.

Then Greg Dyke sat down next to Judith and we four had a great little chat. He said he had seriously considered making the film when he was at the BBC and would still love to see it made.

At 11:40, the organ begins to play excerpts from Bach, Handel, Howells, Mendelssohn, Elgar and Vaughan Williams. I turn to my left and meet Mary Connolly. Believe this: she turns out to be Sussex University’s Special Projects director responsible for The Attenborough Centre which is opening in September! I had no idea of this. She offered to look at my photos of Richard – “It’s so difficult to find unpublished ones” – and the proposal I made to Richard for a Peace Studies Institute. Looks like another re-write coming up.

On the dot of noon of this St Patrick’s Day, SILENCE descends. We are all abruptly totally focused, egos quickly draining away. The Collegiate Procession, in their magnificence, ‘moves to places in Quire and Sacrarium’. George Fenton’s “Shadowlands” theme is played on trumpet and organ. After the Bidding, we sang Bunyan’s “He who would valiant be..”. Now I am involved, body and soul.

David Attenborough then read Richard’s Maiden Speech [22-11-94]. I give it to you now:

“I have it on the best authority – from a not too distant relative – that we are related to apes. But it is surely not only the ability to stand on our hind legs that sets us so singularly apart from the animal kingdom. The crucial difference must lie in what we call ‘soul’ and creativity.

From the very earliest of times, the arts have been an instinctive essential of our humanity. They are a miraculous sleight of hand which reveals the truth; and a glorious passport to greater understanding between the peoples of the world. The arts not only enrich our lives but also grant us the opportunity to challenge accepted practices and assumptions. They give us a means of protest against that which we believe unjust; a voice to condemn the brute and the bully; a brief to advocate the cause of human dignity and self-respect; a rich and varied language through which we can express our national identity.

Today, as a nation, we face daunting problems – problems which are obliging us to examine the very fabric of our society. And the role of the arts in healing a nation divided, a nation in which too many lack work, lack self-esteem, lack belief and direction, cannot be over-estimated.

The arts are not a luxury. They are as crucial to our well-being, to our very existence, as eating and breathing. Access to them should not be restricted to a privileged few. Nor are they the playground of the intelligentsia. The arts are for everyone – and failure to include everyone diminishes us all.”

Wow! Poppy shakes a metaphorical fist in total agreement, whispering “Yes!”.

Penelope Wilton followed with verses from St John [I 4:7-9, 11-12, 18, 20]:

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for Gos is love. In the was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

After the Choir had sung the spiritual “Steal Away”, St Matthew 5: 1-10 was read by the apparently gorgeous, but out of sight, Tom Hiddlestone. We then sang Vaughan Williams’ hymn “Come down, O Love divine…” and Ben Kingsley and Geraldine James mounted the two pulpits, alternating with each other. Sir Ben began, but not in voice, to read:

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings.
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether mad destruction is wrought in the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty and democracy?
There are many causes I would die for. Not one I would kill for. An eye for an eye turns the whole world blind.
Poverty is the worst form of violence.
Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal, as his abuse of the better half of humanity: the female sex.
Terrorism is a weapon not of the strong but of the weak.
Civilisation is the encouragement of differences.
The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always
won. There have been tyrants and murderers and, for a time, they can seem invincible but, in
the end, they always fall. Think of it – always.
There are no goodbyes.
Wherever you’ll be, you’ll be in my heart.

This led seamlessly into a heavenly sound that seemed to capture the whole building in its palm. Unnati Dasgupta sang from the Organ Loft:

Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram
Patita Pavana Sita Ram
Sita Ram jaya Sita Ram
Bhaja Pyare tu Sita Ram
Ishawara Allah tero naam
Saab ko Sanamati De Bhagavan.

From Shri Nama Ramayanam
Vishnu Digambar Paluskar [1872 – 1931]
Based on a mantra by Ramdas [1608 – 1681]
Sung by Gandhi and his followers on the Salt March to Dandi.

Stunning!

Lord Puttnam delivered The Address. People all around me laughed at his anecdotes of Richard but, unfortunately, I couldn’t hear any of the punch lines. I shall ask him for a copy. Judith writes: “A moving address by David Puttnam reminded us how Dickie, throughout his life and work, brought human virtues of courage, compassion, a lifelong commitment to human rights and reaching out rather than closing in to all peoples”.

He was immediately followed by the voice of Richard himself. Tears leapt to my eyes and I instinctively clutched my heart – what a wuss! He was reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 17. You know: “Who will believe my verse in time to come…”

The silence that followed was palpable. He was here again and then he was gone, our thanksgiving finally bringing it home. But I am still here but not for that long. We felt our fleeting mortality in Richard’s.

To rouse us back up from our gloom, they gave us Elgar’s “Nimrod”, to which the Choir sang The Anthem:

“Lux aeterna luceat eis Domine cum sanctis tuis in aeternum: quia pius es.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Cum sanctis tuis in aeternum quia pius es.”

No wonder Melvyn Bragg chose John Wycliffe, alongside John Ball and Tom Paine, as one of his great British heroes in his BBC television series.

How about Blake next, Melvyn? Which allows me to segue into the Finale – which was, of course, “Jerusalem”. Singing your heart out, your Soul soars again and wants to ascend yet further.

The three of us and, I’m sure nearly everybody else, were in mild, post-awe shock, euphoric as the hour comes to an end. Was it really that short? The beauty of the music, the words, the architecture, the people are still vibrating within you as you shuffle towards the sun-lit portal back into the so-called real world. It is as if you are gliding. With heightened awareness, you see only Brothers and Sisters around you, a whole community swimming in a sea of smiles and joy. The organisers, the speakers, the performers – people – created this for him, for us and for themselves. We had all participated and made it so. Thank you. “Human beings – they can really be something, can’t they?”

Together, we had honoured rightly this great man and done so in one of our most sacred spaces and the one closest to the most holy place of participative democracy on the planet. When will they bronze his bust? For this man was a saint by any measure. Thousands loved him personally, millions felt their well-being enhanced by his life, love and generosity, many changing themselves because of what he did and became. Bless you, my Lord.

For me, he achieved satyagraha. But, then, what do I know about that?

John Rowley is a Trustee and Executive Member of the Gandhi Foundation.

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