Friday, March 02, 2007

Rest of the week

Question on Chad refugees

Meeting of the Penal Affairs Group with Phil Wheatley, head of the Prison Service, who spoke about what they're doing to reduce their carbon footprint. One problem that hasn't been solved is the large usage of foam rubber mattresses, which end up in landfill. There isn't an economical biodegradable substitute, and there's a European Directive coming down the track which prohibits dumping foam rubber in landfill.

Meeting of the Somaliland Group with BBC experts chaired by Diplomatic Correspondent Bridget kendall with Richard Doden, Director of theRoyal African Society; Yusuf Garaad Omar, Head of the BBC Somali Service, and Frank Gardner OBE, BBC Security Correspondent. The consnsus was that President Abdullahi Yusuf had to broaden the base of his government to includea wider range of clans - he is Darod,and his government is not inclusive, though the Prime Minister is Hawiye.

The withdrawal of the Ethiopians and their replacement by an AU force is not likely to work, because there isn't a stable peace to keep.

Puntland continues to uphold its claim to Sool and Sanaag, which are part of Somaliland, and in the unlikely event of Abdullahi Yusuf gaining a secure hold over the rest of Somalia, he would press for sovereignty over the whole of Somaliland.

The Transitional Federal Charter was a good document, and should form the basis of any inclusive solution. The Islamists are still around, and there are some who should be invitedto participate in government.

The NY Times had reported last week that the US and Ethiopia had planned the invasion just before Christmas.

The Muslim world is likely to see this operation as yet another example of the witch-hunt against Islamic states by the west, and it must be acknowledged that for a few weeks te Islamic Courts had brought a semblance of peace and stability where chaos and endemic conflict betweeen warlords had been the rule for 15 years.

Thursday I spoke at the end of a day long conference on Gypsies and Travellers organised by the Royal Town Planning Institute. My press releas, one paragraph from 30 minutes' worth:

"The rejection of the Dale Farm appeal by Ruth Kelly is a major setback. She acknowledges that the 112 Gypsy pitches in the District are full and that the 107 unauthorised pitches there ‘graphically illustrate the shortage of authorised sites, not just in Basildon, but in Essex and the East of England too’ She goes on to remind herself that in the DCLG’s own Circular 1/2006 local authorities are enjoined to grant temporary permission where there is a reasonable expectation that at the end of the period new sites are likely to become available in the area, as she is satisfied they will here in the next 3-4 years. Yet she concludes that all this is cancelled out by the harm to the Green Belt and to safety over this limited period. What this decision means is that, subject to one further remaining High Court challenge, Basildon is free to spend huge amounts of public money, probably running into millions of pounds on forcibly evicting these 48 families, but the District would still be obliged to provide suitable interim accommodation for those who are pregnant, with dependent children, suffering from physical or mental disabilities, or elderly, under S 188 of the Housing Act 1988, for which they haven’t budgeted. The people would become long-term burdens on the State, being unable to work and requiring additional support, particularly those suffering from permanent disabilities of whom there are several. If the Council succeeds in driving them out of the District, the problems will simply be transferred to the neighbouring authorities of Castle Point, Rochford, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock. These long term injuries to the wider public interest may not be factors in planning decisions, but they are a great deal more serious than temporary damage to the Green Belt”.

Who knows, maybe the Basildon Echo will print it. Then again, maybe they won't, because its the opposite of their editorial stance, which is to get rid of this encampment without regard to what happens afterwards,

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