Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sharif Adam Nassour, Tadjadine Bechir Diam, leaders of URF

This week

Monday, discussion on Somaliland and Horn of Africa with Lulu Todd and Ahmed Ibrahim.

Tuesday, President Khama's meeting in the Grand Committee Room. I told him that his father Seretse Khama and I were freshmen together at Balliol in 1945. Then, initiated a motion to disapprove the Immigration Rules changes. Support for postponing the changes from all sides of the House, but the Tories wouldn't vote with us, though David Cameron had an identical motion, not debated, in the Commons. As a result, the changes come into effect tomorrow, halting research programmes in the universities and PCTs.

Wednesday, a presentation by the General Teaching Council to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gypsies and Travellers in the morning and in the afternoon, fielded a Queston on the processing of visa applications from Sri Lanka and the Maldives, then spoke in the debate on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The session was prorogued at 20.00, giving us a few days off until the new session begins on
December 3.

Today, meeting with two leaders of the United Resistance Front of Darfur, which brings together all the parties except the faction of the JEM that mounted an armed attack on Khartoum, supposedly at the behest of Chad as a reprisal for attacks by Sudan on their capital, Njamena, and SLA Unity, with whom there is a partnership agreement.

The Sudanese Initiative, a semi-official organisation, are recommending that Khartoum off a Vice-Presidency of Sudan to the peope of Khartoum; that comp[ensation be paid for the damage and loss of life caused over the last five years of conflict; that all detainees held by both ides be released, and that Darfur should be reunified. This would lay the ground for the new UN Special Envoy and Chief Mediator, Jilal Bassole of Burkina Faso, to convene a meeting between the parties with a view to a permanent ceasefire and political agreement. Mr Bassole is due in London within the next few weeks, and in the Queen's Speech foreign affairs debate next Wednesday I will have an opportunity of asking the Minister, Lord Malloch-Brown, what contribution the UK can make to the peace process.

Tomorrow, to Oxford for a meeting of the Maurice Lubbock Memorial Fund. Over the weekend and next Monday, I rather hope I'll be able to catch up on the paperwork, which has accumulated in several nasty piles!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

This week

Since Maurice returned to New Zealand the Friday before last its been nose to the grindstone.

Monday, Matt Lister and Philip Malpass of Constellation came to lunch, at which the discussion centred round the use of cheap wines as loss leaders by supermarkets, which I intend to pursue.

Then fielded Sue Miller's question on the Government's plan to create a vast database of all mobile telephone calls and intermet accesses, since reported to have been dropped from the Queen's Speech.

In the evening we had a rehash of the US Presidential election over dinner, with Phil Krone, who was staying overnight, JW, returned from Denver that morning, and his friend Mark, who had been mainly in Augusta.

Tuesday the Eritrean Ambassador came to lunch at the House. I fielded a question by George Foulkes on countries with visa-free access for visitors to the UK. Then tea with Shadia Syed, who is returning to Bangladesh to present English-languade news bulletins on TV.

Wednesday, to the London Resource Centre in Holloway Road to give the keynote speech at the Irish Travellers' Movement Conference. Then back to the House to field the Bishop of Liverpool's question on drugs in prisons. Tried also to get in on the next question on indeterminate sentences but was beaten by the clock. Then to a hearing of the All-Party Alcohol Harm Group, questioning experts on the measures now available and changes they would like to see. In the evening, to the Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) 15th Anniversary celebration dinner (I'm their President).

Thursday, meeting with Rosemary Burnett of the Guatenala Solidarity Network, and Iduvina Hernandez, Executive Director of the Association for the Study and Promotion of Security in a Democracy (SEDEM), a Guatemalan NGO that promotes reform of the Guatemalan state intelligence services. SEDEM documents threats and intimidation against journalists and human rights defenders, and issues reports on the remilitarization of Guatemalan society, the need for civilian control over internal security, and presidential campaign financing.

In the evening, presided at the launch of a book on the Kurds, commissioned by Delfina Entrecanales of the Delfina Foundation for the KHRP at the SW1 Gallery. Mark Muller and Mark Thomas auctioned framed copies of some of the photographs used in the book and raised £5,000! I bought one, of the two Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani (now President of Iraq) and Massoud Barzani, taken in 1991.

Saturday, at the Stockwell YMCA - a very attractive building, newly decorated - for the Peru Support Group's 15th Anniversary Conference and AGM (I'm President)

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Wednesday, at ENO's Partenope

Aortic Aneurysm

This is the recent scan of my aortic aneurysm, a bulge in the aorta somewhere in the abdomen. As long as it doesn't get any bigger than 5 cm its harmless, and this scan showed that it was the same diameter as a year ago. For more information on Aortic aneurysms see:

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Remembrance Day

We lunched at Wellington Barracks at the kind invitation of David Saunders and his wife. I served with him in Wuppertal-Elberfeld in 1950-51, when I was doing my national service - and it was great to see him again after all those years, as well as to enter Wellington Barracks for the first time since 1950. HRH Prince Charles attended the lunch and we had the honour of meeting him. The service in the Guards Chapel was very moving, and the music wonderful. Then I marched with other former offoicers to Horseguards where we marched past Prince Charles.

Lunch Nov 8

Talking to Cobweb Nov 8

Huge birthday cake, from the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Angulimala

Prins Gunasekara, Emlyn & Shirley Hooson, Nasser Butt

My reply

Victoria speaking

Jeremy Hornsby speaking at the party

Phil Krone at the Nov 7 party; Judge Joan Powell in background

More from the LBS prizegiving

LBS Prize

The award of the London Bach Society's Bach Singers' Prize, at St George's Hanover Square (the church where my parents were married 82 years ago). The winner, Jolanta Kowalska, a Polish soprano, sang the Laudamus Te from the Mass in B Minor among other favourites, an the whole concert was a fantastic birthday treat. Patrick Matthiesen, who donated the prize, is on my left, and Ian Partridge, chairman of the judges, on my right.

With Maurice & Lyulph, returning from the RS Nov 7

Maurice's birthday

Maurice's birthday, November 5

Remembrance for Uncle Eric, killed in 1917

With Lyulph & Maurice at the Royal Society Nov 7

With dear little Alastair at Kina's November 5

Victoria's speech

The problem with eulogies is that they are more commonly encountered at funerals. And also, as you all know, my father is a modest individual, more used to giving speeches than finding himself the subject of one.
But I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass, or miss the moment when I could add my love and best wishes for Eric’s 80th.
The risks he has taken have often put his life on the line, and his health problems, so vividly and graphically documented on his blog ( have also proved somewhat challenging. However, his attitude and approach to life has always been, variously, inspirational, incredibly tenacious, occasionally eccentric, generous, and embarrassing at times!
Virtually all his life has been spent either representing or fighting for the rights of others. For over 50 years, he has campaigned and highlighted the unheard voices of those less fortunate.
Since his famous ‘Orpington by-election victory’ in 1962, he has dedicated himself to trying to improving the democratic process – although perhaps in his position as an elected hereditary peer, this is somewhat of anathema! But before he is finally ‘abolished’, I have no doubt, he will continue to identify and address issues of injustice, with his tremendous wisdom, experience and unbounding energy.
The same cannot be said for his filing system, which I have been attempting to get to grips with recently, which runs from Azerbaijan and the Ahmadis through alcohol, pneumococal disease, through to Georgia, Zambia, freedoms and rights. In the last week alone, those that follow his blog will have been able to follow his meetings with the President of the Turks & Caicos Islands, the Armenian Foreign Minister, speeches on immigration and chairing a meeting on self-determination for Kashmiri’s. And some of you may not know that only a few weeks ago, he was hurtling around on the back of a motorcycle in his role as a member of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission.
But what about Eric, the father?
• Scribbling in my school history and geography textbooks, correcting erroneous ‘colonial errors’ and re-drawing world boundaries. This invariably resulting in him being summonsed to my school and having to pay for the ‘wilful damage’.
• Days out visiting stately homes, when Eric would stick a piece of gum to the end of a stick and attempt, in full public view, to extract coins tossed in by members of the public to the ‘wishing well’ fountain!
• Or there was the time he was charged and prosecuted with “resisting arrest and trying to injure a police officer with his ball-point pen” – around his neck on a strap at the time. Unfortunately, the T-shirts I had printed to proclaim his innocence were mis-printed, reading instead “Lord Avebury is indecent”
• Inspite of his rebellious nature, he is always an example of energy, passion and commitment - a brilliant role model and we are all incredibly proud of him and his achievements. Along the way, he has made many friends, as well as quite a few enemies exposing political hypocrisy and dirty dealings – from the arms to Sierra Leone to Blair’s secret meetings with Murdoch.
• So, to sum up, We urge you to keep up the good work as long as you are able and willing, but also, like tonight, continue to make time for “3 F’s”: Fun, friends and family. and we are all very happy to be able to share your 80th birthday celebrations!

Bhante, his driver, and family

Thursday, November 06, 2008

NO: 00880 2 8113243

Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed
Chief Advisor
Office of the Chief Advisor, Bangladesh
October 27, 2008
Dear Chief Advisor,
On behalf of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission we would like to express our deep concern regarding the alleged torture of and denial of effective medical treatment to Mr. Ranglai Mro, an Adivasi leader, the elected Chairperson of Sualok Union Parishad, and head of the local NGO Mrochet of Bandarban, Chittagong Hill Tracts.
On 23 February 2007, Mr Ranglai Mro, aged 38, was forcefully taken away from his residence in Bandarban town by army led-security forces. He was allegedly subject to torture in Bandarban Cantonment and then handed over to the police station of Bandarban Sadar Thana. He was accused of illegal possession of weapons. Mr Ranglai Mro was admitted to the Bandarban Sadar Hospital on the same day, and was subsequently transferred to the Chittagong Medical College Hospital.

Four months after his arrest, Mr. Ranglai Mro was convicted of illegal possession of weapons under the Arms Act 1878, and sentenced to 17 years' imprisonment. An appeal was filed before the High Court against the conviction and sentence and has been pending for over a year.
In October 2007 Mr Ranglai Mro’s health further deteriorated, and he was admitted to the Chittagong Medical College Hospital. There, doctors said he needed treatment in a hospital with better equipment, but he was once more sent back to jail without any improvement in his health. He still has not received appropriate treatment for his heart condition and other medical complications, and his health remains at grave risk.
We strongly urge the authorities to provide Mr. Ranglai Mro with immediate and sustained medical treatment in a hospital, if necessary abroad, which is equipped to provide specialist treatment for his critical heart condition.
The Commission earnestly requests the authorities to order an investigation by an independent, impartial and competent body on the torture of Mr. Ranglai Mro with a view to bringing those responsible to justice.

Eric Avebury Sultana Kamal Ida Nicolaisen
Co-chair of the Co-chair of the Co-chair of the
CHT Commission CHT Commission CHT Commission

Monday, November 03, 2008


Chairing a meeting on self-determination for the people of Kashmir on October 14 in the Moses Room of the House of Lords. Zafar Khan is speaking, and Lord Ahmed is on my other side.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

This week

Maurice arrived from Auckland this afternoon for a short visit. He had a little sleep on the 26-hour journey and seems in very good shape.

Monday, lunch with the Armenian Foreign Minister. Then fielded a question by Lord Naseby on security and business aviation, and in the evening, attended the presentation by Mr Speaker of the Mr Speaker Abbott Awards, for which I am one of the judges. This year there were joint winners: Michel Kilo, a Syrian journalist who is serving a three-year prison sentence,presented in absentia to his son, and Jonathan Paye-Layleh, who reports from Liberia for the BBC.

Tuesday, hosted a Silbury Fund lunch for Jonathan Paye-Layleh, then chaired a Parliamentary Human Rights Group meeting for him to meet NGOs. Attended a meeting of the Parliamentary Drugs and Alcohol Harm Group.

Wednesday, fielded a question by Lord Greaves on the statement by the new Minister for Immigration, Phil Woolas, that the Government would prevent the UK population from rising to 70 million. Then spoke on two Orders; on the next phase of the Points Based System of immigration control, and on remands by the English courts of persons indicted by the International Criminal Court. In the evening, attended the joint 80th birthday party of Bill Rodgers and Dick Taverne.

Thursday, meeting with the Prime Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands; then fielded a question by the Bishop of Winchester on the situation in the eastern DRC, and at the end of business, moved an amendment to the Education & Skills Bill on the education of GRT children - mainly in order to get a progress report from the new Minister, Baroness Morgan, on assurances given by her predecessor Lord Adonis before the summer recess.