Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Routine post

Sorry, no pictures today. I had a visit from Prins Gunasekara, but didn't think of it at the time. He was gloomy about the prospects for peace in Sri Lanka, and with good reason. Although the EU has just proscribed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist organisation, it will have no effect because they were already proscribed in every individual member state. Human Rights Watch has just published a report on LTTE fundraising in Canada and the UK, claiming that extortion of money from the diaspora is endemic, but no LTTE agent has been prosecuted inder S 15 of the Terrorism Act 2000 as far as I know. Since 9/11, there have been only 23 convictions under any of the provisions of the Act; the statistics aren't further broken down, so one can't tell how many were for S 15 offences, and of these, how many were related to the LTTE. I have asked the Home Office for this information, but I suspect the answer is zero.

I beat JW 2-1 at ping pong today, so the cumulative score to date since the operation is 4-3 in JW's favour.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Busy day

Phil Krone, our old friend from Chicago, was staying overnight, leaving after breakfast for a one day trip to Limoges and then back to Chicago.

Then Mohammed Tayyib Bah called in for a discussion about development and security in West Africa, on which he has some imaginative ideas.

In the afternoon I lost three games of ping-pong to JW, but yesterday, the first time we had played since before the operation, I won a game.

Finally, a visit from a Bangladesh MP, to discuss the failure of the Bangladesh government to arrest and try the political masterminds behind the terrorist attacks, particularly the grenade throwers who tried to kill the Leader of the Opposition, Sheikh Hasina, at a rally on August 21, 2005. We also covered the forthcoming elections, and the Supreme Court's severe criticism of the electoral roll, which in current parlance is not fit for purpose.

Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim MP, Bangladesh

Mohammed Tayyib Bah, ex Sierra Leone

Phil Krone, from Chicago, at breakfast

Rusty, JW, and Nic May 29

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Bank Holiday

Not a lot of startling news since the last post. I attended the House twice this week, and asked a supplementary question on Wednesday about reconstruction following the Kashmir earthquake. JW arrived from Nottingham with his two friends Nic and Rusty on Friday, and Tordie went off to Rome that morning.

No Bank Holiday weekend would be complete without the traditional emergency removal case, and sure enough, Puck called me at breakfast time about a Ugandan who has removal directions for thie evening. So when she lets me have the material, I'm afraid that means spending many a happy hour trying to raise someone at MODCU ( management of detained cases unit) and persuading them to defer removal pending the submission of important new evidence which Puck says she can produce. Why hadn't the solicitors been doing this work? Because many of them are useless, except at the box-ticking which keeps them on the approved list. The supervisory authority pays no attention tothe quality of reprsentation, and many good practitioners have withdrawn because of the cuts in the amount of legal aid allowed.

Paul Vallely wrote in The Independent yesterday on Bank Holidays: The break with tradition, saying that my grandfather Sir John Lubbock felt that friends and families should be able to enjoy an outing together. But the name 'Bank Holiday' didn't mean that only bank employees were allowed to take the day off. The name arose from the fact that bank bills which fell due for payment on the Bank Holiday were to become payable the following day. It had nothing to do with particular firms enjoying a commercial advantage, as Vallely supposed. Sir John thought one reason why the 1871 Act encountered no Parliamentary opposition was that at the time many people didn't realise that it gave everybody a holiday.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Yesterday's photos

The two pictures below were yesterday's visits. The Secretary-General of the Bangladesh Communist Party reviewed the prospects for the elections at the end of the year. The caretaker government which takes over for the period of the campaign, and the Electoral Commission, are supposed to be neutral, but the government of Khaleda Zia has arranged for both to be headed by staunch supporters of her BNP. Since the Electoral Commission appoints the District Officers who are in charge of registration and polling arrangements, and the head of the caretaker government controls the army and police, there cannot be free and fair elections. During June both the EU and the Commonwealth Secretariat are sending pre-assessment missions to Bangladesh, and no doubt they will urge the importance of state non-partisanship in the election machinery. But with the government and opposition not taking to one another - because the Awami League, the main opposition party, refuses to attend any meeting at which the Jamaat-e-Islami, the government's coalition partners, are present - it isn't easy to see how progress can be made towards the reforms that are needed, and time is rubbing out.

In the afternoon, Nasim Bajwa and his wife came round and we had a good chat. He reminded me of the occasion when we had gone to the Pakistan TV studios for what was supposed to be a one-on-one interview, and the interviewer had failed to appear! Nasim had stepped into the breach, and although he had never done any broadcasting interviewing before in his life, the programme was a great success.

Nasim Bajwa, friend of 30 years, with whom I visited Pakistan four times

With Dilip Barua, General Secretary, Communist Party of Bangladesh

Friday, May 19, 2006

With Lindsay in the garden

With Ursula in the garden

Ursula presents me with a jar of gherkins, May 19

Letter to the Foreign Secretary on the Chagos Islands case

From Lord Avebury P0619051

Tel 020-7274 4617

May 19, 2006

Dear Mrs Beckett,

I have read the judgement in the Chagos Islands case, EWHC 1038, and I also met Mr Olivier Bancoult for a discussion on the issue on Wednesday.

Clearly, your predecessors knew exactly what they were doing in hiding the fact that there was a civilian population on the islands, as the note of November 15, 1965 by an official quoted in paragraph 27 recognised, and the Commissioner was even more frank in his minute of June 1966, also quoted by Laws LJ in the previous case, “Bancoult 1” and repeated later in Para 27. We deliberately misled the Decolonisation Committee about the status of the islanders, a shabby piece of work intended to clear the way for us to exile them compulsorily from their homeland. It is also clear that we acted unlawfully in making the Order in Council which reversed Bancoult 1. As the judge said in para 142,

‘the suggestion that a minister can, through an Order in Council, exile a whole population from a British Overseas Territory and claim that he is doing so for the “peace, order and good government” of the territory is, to us, repugnant’.

As to the question of whether or not the removal of the islanders was challengeable, the bottom line is that ’the decision was in reality that of the Secretary of State, not of Her Mejesty, and is subject to judicial review in the ordinary way’ (para 163).

Sir Sydney Kentridge QC rightly described the treatment of the Chagossians as "outrageous, unlawful and a breach of accepted moral standards". He said there was no known precedent "for the lawful use of prerogative powers to remove or exclude an entire population of British subjects from their homes and place of birth".

In Gordon Brown’s keynote speech to the Fabian Future of Britishness conference on January he used the word ‘fairness’ repeatedly, citing a 2005 YouGov survey which showed that as many as 90 per cent of British people thought that fairness and fair play were very important or fairly important in defining Britishness. The behaviour of the Government towards the Chagossians has been monstrously unfair, and I hope you will not compound the wrong done to this small and powerless group by appealing against the High Court’s ruling in their favour.

Yours sincerely,

The Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Beckett MP,
Foreign & Commonwealth Office,
London SW1A 2AH.

With Olivier Bancoult, Leader of the Chagos Islanders, and Bashir Khan, May 17

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

With Kayode Fayemi

The Chief Executive, Derrick Anderson, Victoria Sherwin and Lindsay

Lindsay receives award from the Mayor

Still here

Today I had an email asking why my blog postings were becoming so infrequent. I had to admit that with no news about my health except to say I'm gradually becoming stronger, and a rather uneventful daily round at home, there wasn't a huge amount to say.

But a big event yesterday evening was the Lambeth Civic Awards at the Town Hall, where Lindsay received an award for her work on the Myatt's Fields Project Group. They are working towards a big regeneration of the Park, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Lambeth Council, in consultation with local people.

This morning I had a visit from my old friend Bashir Khan and the Leader of the Chagos Islanders, Olivier Bancoult, who has just won a case against the Government in the High Court which paves the way for the islanders to return, 40 years after they were unlawfully exiled by Harold Wilson's Government to make way for a US naval base on Diego Garcia. Wilson falsely pretended that there were no permanent inhabitants on the islands, so that it was unnecessary to consult them in accordance with the rules of the UN Committee in Decolonisation. Now this Government has 28 days to decide whether to appeal against the High Court's ruling that there predecessors' action was illegal.

Then this evening I had a visit from Kayode Fayemi, who flew in from Abuja this morning, with the latest news of the Nigerian Parliament's decision to reject the proposed change in the constitution which would have allowed President Obasanjo to stand for a third term. Kayode is standing for Governor of Ekiti State, and was on his way to the US to address a congress of Ekitians there, and to have talks at the State Department.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Haematology, and Assisted Dying

The haematology consultant says I don’t need further treatment, and the stomach biopsy didn’t find any H pylori (you don’t want to know, but there’s plenty of stuff about it on the web)

Readings from latest blood sample:

Haemoglobin 10.6
White cell 3.6
Platelet 426

This afternoon I’m going to the House to vote for Joel Joffe’s Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill. I wasn’t intending to make the effort, but have been provoked by the blizzard of letters, obviously prompted by Christian groups, from people who haven’t read the Bill and make the most extraordinary assertions about its likely use by grasping relatives to kill off rich aunt Mildred, so that her estate isn’t squandered on nursing home charges. The Bill is a slippery slope, many say, which can lead to euthanasia on demand. This is total rubbish.

What the opponents of the Bill ignore is that an estimated 900 lives are ended each year in the UK by illegal voluntary euthanasia, and a further 2,000 lives are ended by doctors without an explicit request by the patient. Joel Joffe’s Bill puts the patient firmly in the driving seat, as in Oregon where a similar law, but with less stringent safeguards, has been in force since 1997, without any of the consequences, particularly for vulnerable groups, that are predicted here.

Under this Bill, the patient has to make a request in writing for assistance in dying. Two independent doctors then have to examine the patient and confirm that s(he) is suffering from a terminal illness. They must also verify thar the patient’s request is well-informed, persistent and voluntary, and that s(he) has the necessary capacity.

The doctors than have to inform the patient of the alternatives, including palliative and hospice care, and an independent palliative care specialist has to attend the patient to explore this option.

If there is any doubt about the patient’s capacity in the mind of either of the two doctors, they must call in an independent consultant psychiatrist or clinical psychologist

If all these tests are passed, the patient then has to make a written declaration of his or her wish to receive assistance in dying, to be witnessed by two independent persons, neither of whom can be a relative or involved in the patient’s care. One of the witnesses must be a solicitor, who has to be satisfied that the patient is of sound mind, understands the implications of the declaration, and is making it voluntarily.

The patient can revoke the declaration at any time, regardless of capacity, and 14 days must elapse between the declaration and the assisted dying.

The opponents of the Bill want to kill it off this afternoon, not even being prepared to allow it to be debated in detail in Committee of the whole House. That process would enable the House to review all the safeguards, and strengthen them if necessary. It would also reserve the right of the House to reject the Bill at Third Reading, if a majority still considered that it was unsatisfactory after lengthy debate and amendment.

The opponents say that if the Bill were given an unopposed Second Reading, it would be taken as approval of the principle, but in their same letter they acknowledge that the previous version of Lord Joffe’s Bill, which contained fewer safeguards, was given an unopposed Second Reading. So also was every single Private Member’s Bill introduced between the Session of 1997-98 and today, 91 Bills without a single division! Surely not every Member is to be taken as having approved all those Bills in principle? What they did was to make it possible for the 91 Bills to be discussed, so why silence debate on this particular Bill?

In 1995, my Blasphemy (Abolition) Bill was voted down on Second Reading, and although the Religious Offences Bill, incorporating the abolition of blasphemy, got a Second Reading and was sent to a Select Committee which reported on June 10, 2003, same people, including the Government, continue to maintain that the proposal hasn’t been sufficiently discussed.

In that case, as with Lord Joffe’s Bill, the Christian minority think they know what’s best for the rest of us. Nobody is going to compel a Christian suffering from an agonising terminal illness to ask for medical help in ending his life, but they want to impose their ‘principle’ on the whole population.

I’m in favour of improvements in palliative care, but anybody who has spent time in high dependency wards can tell you that medical science cannot always prevent unbearable suffering. Where that suffering is associated with a terminal illness, the patient should have the right to ask for medical help in bringing his life to an end here, rather than have to undertake a traumatic and expensive journey to Switzerland for the purpose.

Assisted dying for the rich is here to stay. For the rest, it does exist, outside the law and without safeguards. To accept this situation is inhuman and callous.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


My scar today - bigger than either the CABG or the colostomy. If they were all on the same side you could play noughts and crosses on them.

Meeting with the surgeon

Saw Mr M today, who said he was pleased with progress. Why I lost a lot of blood four days after the operation and where it came from remain a mystery, but does it matter (my comment, not his)? The chunk that was removed measured 85 x 50 x 30 mm, and the tumour itself was an irregular ellipsoid, the major axis of which was 33 mm. Generally these lymphomas are more symmetrical. Mr M showed us the photographs taken during the operation, and has kindly promised to email them to me or send a CD. He said that the bacteria helicobacter pylori had been shown to cause MALT in the digestive system in a majority of cases, and it was unusual to find it in the lung.

Me in garden May 7

Lindsay in the garden May 7

Discussion on Bangladesh May 5

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Half way there

This is my first blog post since the day before the operation. Many thanks to Lindsay for keeping it up so effectively over the last two and a half weeks. A big thank you also to Mr M and his colleagues at King's for looking after me so well, and to the many friends who sent get well messages, enough flowers to stock a funeral parlour for a year, assorted fruit and other goodies. I'm getting up for a few hours every day, and gradually regaining strength, though still feeling a bit weak, and weight down to 65 kg.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

3rd May 06 Eric Update

Eric has a visit from the Ven. Khemadhammo Mahathera, Head of the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy, Angulimala, of which Eric is Patron.
Posted by Lindsay, 4 May 06

Monday, May 01, 2006

Lindsay with Eric, at home, 1st May 2006

Lindsay at home with Eric, on Bank Holiday Monday, 2006. A reminder to you all that Eric's grandfather, Sir John Lubbock, invented Bank Holidays in 1871, so be thankful!

Posted by Lindsay 01.5.06

Jan Webster, 1.5.06

Jan Webster with Eric, 1st May. Jan flew in from Malaga yesterday to visit Eric, and returns tomorrow.

Update on Eric: May Day 2006

Eric's 2nd day home. Still very tired but so glad to be home. Visits on Sunday from Barbara Stapleton from Kabul, Jan Webster from Malaga and Dr and Mrs Salim Malik from the Ahmadiyya Muslims. On Monday, Jan visited again (see photo) before her return to Spain, and also Edwina Epstein, cousin and local resident.