Friday, April 24, 2009

This week


Very well-attended and successful Bahrain seminar alread mentioned, see below.
Lunch with Dr Alexandra Argenti to discuss her proposal for a Kurdish language course at SOAS
Meeting in the afternoon with Dr Ahmed Türk who talked about the crackdown on the Democratic Society Party in Turkey, of which he is President. The authorities had arrested 51 members of the DSP Assembly, 3 Depiuties and some 100 District officials, with more being taken in as we spoke. The majority are being charged with membership of the PKK, an illegal organisation. Dr Türk said the DSP had always tried to engage in the political process and still aimed for a peaceful and democratic solution to the question of Kurdish identity and self-government. In the Kurdish region all the other parties had presented a united front against the DSP, but the Party had nevertheless doubled the number of towns they held. fter their success, the media had started to discuss a solution to 'the Kurdish problem', and the PKK had declared a ceasefire, leaving room for political initiatives. But Ankara had refused to engage in a dialogue, and now these arrests were likely to trigger firther conflict. Now was the moment to prevent further escalation and explore means of granting the Kurdish people their lingustic and cultural rights (supposedly guaranteed by the OSCE), and the right to manage their own affairs in their own region.


Select Committee in the morning, taking evidence from Sir James Sassoon, former President of the Financial Action Task Force, an international organisation set up to combat money laundering and the financing of international terrorism (AML/CFT in the jargon) to which 34 states belong including all western European states. There are other regional organisations with similar functions including standard-setting, monitoring compliance and identifying threats, and one of the questions that interested me was the justification for having a different organisation (MONEYVAL) covering eastern states including the EU members that were formerly part of the Soviet bloc, each with its own Secretariat and decision-making structures, when in fact the standards set by the two organisations and their monitoring mechanisms were virtually identical. We will have to see whether the Committee found Sir James's answers on this point convincing. He was certainly a very informative witness.

At Question time, I fielded a question by my LibDem colleague Lindsay Northover on the current situation in Sri Lanka. The military operations against the enclave held by the LTTE seemed to be drawing to a close, with 122,000 civilians having by then escaped, and my question dealt with the offer by President Rajapaksa to send an all-Party Parliamentary delegation to Sri Lanka, and the need to mobilise international humanitarian resources in support of agencies such as UNICEF and the Red Cross, to rehabilitate the civilians.

In the afternoon we had Third Reading of Borders Bill. Some changes had been made by agreement, but the Minister threatened - in the nicest possible way - to reverse the vote in which the Tories and LibDems had inserted a provision allowing those within 12 months of applying for indefinite leave to remain, to continue along that path.


Tajammul Hussain came to lunch, the first time I had seen him since he had returned from Pakistan. We talked about his visit, and of course about his former employers the UNHCR.

Then Lindsay and I went to the Guards Chapel for David Saunders' memorial service. I hadn't been in touch with him from the time I left the Welsh Guards in 1951, to the middle of last year when he invited me and Lindsay to the Remembrance Day service and afterwards to lunch (see posting at the time). After that he and Trish came to dinner with us, but then, tragically, he died suddenly after an operation to fit a pacemaker.

He had a splendid send-off, with the band of the Coldstream Guards and the Guards Chapel choir including the old favourite Welsh hymn Bread of Heaven.


This morning I had a blood test at King's followed by an appointment with the haematology consultant, a periodic routine since I had the lung tumour removed in April 2006, and a chest X-ray this time as well. Nowadays the consultant writes to the GP afterwards and copies the letter to the patient, a great improvement on the old days when it was difficult to get them to say anything.

Then a game of ping-pong with JW, 2-0 to me this time! He made the excuse that he had a late night out, but I may have been slightly more on form that in our last few encounters. I still have to record the previous two, which were 0-2 and 1-1, making the total 104-103 on his favour.

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