Saturday, April 12, 2008

This week

The House has been in recess this week. Monday I had a useful meeting with Cllr Alex Feakes, LibDem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Lewisham West and Penge, having agreed to act as his Parliamentary contact.

Tuesday was the launch of the Let Them Return campaign, in support of the Chagos Islanders, who were kicked out of their homes in 1967 by then Prime Minister Harold Wilson to make way for an American military base, an operation that had no parallel in recent times except in the Soviet Union under Stalin. Olivier Bancoult,the Leader of the campaign; Richard Gifford, the lawyer fighting their case in the courts, and Professor John Howell, author of a study demonstrating the feasibility of return, were the main speakers, and there was a good contingent of the Ilois, from the exiles now living in Crawley.

Wednesday I had a visit from former Indonesian Ambassador Nana Sutrisno, who was visiting the UK for the birth of a grandchild. We reminisced about the early stages of the Acheh peace process, which led ultimately to the settlement based on the pronciple of autonomy. Mr Sutrisno is now undertaking ad hoc miissions on behalf of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and I asked him to convey my greetings to the President, remembering our contacts in Geneva.

Thursday I had a meeting to discuss the evidence given by the Foreign Office in the hearing of the case for deproscribing the People's Mojahedin of Iran, which the Government lost in the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, but are appealing. Some of this evidence came from persons closely connected with the Iranian regime, and having had some knowledge of their attempts to poison the springs of truth in relation to a Human Rights Watch inquiry a few years ago, I am planning to warn the FCO about their use of polluted sources.

Thursday evening I attended an exhibition at the Oxo Gallery of photographs taken by a young Afghan, in the north of the country where conditions are more or less normal. They are raising money to send books to the schools, for which donations can be sent to 'Afghan Youth Fund', c/o Richard Compton, 14 Broadway Lofts, Gatton Road, London SW17 0EE. I'm asking my grandson, who works for Amazon, whether they deliver to Afghanistan!

Friday I had a meeting with the newly appointed Representative of Somaliland to the United Kingdom. We still don't recognise Somaliland's independence, though it has been governed separately since the downfall of the dictator Siad Barre and has been developing institutions of democratic governance and human rights. The UK, as the former colonial power, would not be the first to recognise Somaliland, but might follow if another state such as South Africa would take the lead. Meanwhile, there is a lot more we could do to help the government of Somaliland to develop basic public services.

Following the judgement of the High Court aginst the Government in the Saudi bribery case, I co-authored an article in Friday's Guardian. The court found ( that Prince Bandar threatened No 10 with dire consequences if the Serious Fraud Office's investigation wasn't stopped, and Tony Blair gave in, telling the Director of the SFO to halt attempts beng made to get documents from a Swiss bank to prove the allegations under investigation. The Director had failed to do everything possible to resist the threat, as he should have done. He submitted too readily because, like the Prime Minister, he concentrated on what might happen if the threat were carried out and not on how it might be resisted. No-one, whether within this country or outside is entitled to interfere with the course of our justice. It was the failure of Government and the Director to observe this essential principle that justified the intervention of the court.

Friday evening, a very agreeable dinner with John Adamson and friend. John won the Pepys Prize for his superb account of the beginning of the English constitutional crisis in 1640, and is working on the sequel, taking the story up to the middle of the decade. I look forward particularly to his treatment of the unfortunate case of my ancestors Sir John Hotham and his son, who were executed in January 1644 for their treasonous dealings with the royalists. In mitigation it must be said that by denying Charles 1 access in 1642 to the armoury at Hull, the second largest in the Kingdom, Sir John had materially damaged the royalists' military efectiveness.

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