an email can keep you going – Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera

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You are facing arrest at any time, there are death threats published in newspapers concerning you, you are forced to move home frequently as it is unsafe not to do so, and all because of those that you love.

This is the sad, unfortunate, and unacceptable life that last night’s speaker at the Amnesty International Belfast Pride Lecture 2011 faces every day of her life in her own country. She says she

I love my country, I want to live in it. There is nowhere else I want to live.

But it seems that many in the Parliament of her country do not want her there. We were shown many photographs of protests across her country against ‘same-sex marriage’ and ‘sodomy’. We, here in Belfast, could almost hear the ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy‘ campaign of the now Lord Bannside resounding back at us through another medium.

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera was inspirational when she talked last night of the struggle for freedoms that we in Northern Ireland and across Europe tend to take for granted.

She talked about how it is important for her security and of all the gay community to be ensured.

We need to be careful – we’re better activists alive than dead. – Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera

Death threat is real

ONE OF Uganda’s most prominent gay rights activists has been murdered, weeks after winning a court case against a newspaper that called for gays to be hanged.

David Kato, the advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda, was beaten to death at his home in Kampala on Wednesday. Police reported that one man was seen fleeing the scene.

“Witnesses told police that a man entered Kato’s home in Mukono at around 1pm . . . hit him twice in the head and departed in a vehicle,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“Kato died on his way to Kawolo hospital. Police told Kato’s lawyer that they had the registration number of the vehicle and were looking for it.”

Gay rights activists in the country said they suspect his death is connected to the publication of his name, photograph and address in Uganda’s Rolling Stone newspaper late last year, in an article under the headlines, “100 pictures of Uganda’s top homos leak” and “Hang them”. His photo was published on the front page.

FAR Uganda

Not all doom and gloom

The gay community in Kampala does get on with live we were told. They

work hard, but party harder – it gives you time to smile.

But all the time there is a threat, lurking in the back of their minds…

Death penalty

Under the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, offenders would face death for having sex with a minor or a disabled person, or for infecting their partners with HIV. It would also punish attempted homosexuality as well as the failure of a third party to report homosexual relationships.

Critics of the proposed law say it is not needed, as the Penal Code Act already punishes homosexuality, and that it is based on unproven claims that European gays are clandestinely recruiting in Uganda.

Bill thrown out by Ugandan Cabinet

According to the Daily Monitor, the Ugandan Cabinet has

finally thrown out the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009 on the advice of Mr Adolf Mwesige, the ruling party lawyer. However, Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, the architect of the Bill, insists the proposed legislation is now property of Parliament and that the Executive should stop “playing hide- and- seek games” on the matter.

If this is the end of the Bill then we should all be giving thanks. However, as Mr Bahati has said, he believes that the Bill is property of Parliament and can still be voted on. I suspect that this Bill will be back to live another day.

Pressure on Uganda

Countries around the world have put pressure on the Ugandan government to stop this proposed law by reducing the aid sent to Uganda. This needs to continue not just until it is clear that the Anti-Homsexuality Bill really has been thrown out – but also until Uganda really starts to protect human rights of all its citizens.

We in Northern Ireland have a special role to play within the United Kingdom. Our Assembly’s All Party Group on International Development works specially with a particular country in Africa – you’ve guessed it – Uganda. Prior to this year’s election to the Assembly back in May, some readers will recall that,

The Rainbow Project’s Education Equality Officer Gavin Boyd asked a question [at Coalition of Aid and Development Agencies' Election Hustings on 6 April]  that as many of the candidates mentioned Uganda how they felt the Assembly could reconcile giving aid or development funding to Uganda or the 50 African states where being gay is illegal.

Most of the politicians agreed that we need to challenge the funding to Uganda. But one, said that

I have no position on that question.

Who was this person? This was a certain Jim Wells, MLA for South Down, who claimed at that meeting that when it came to his party’s policy on international aid and development he was it, that whatever he said went. It seems that Mr Wells is becoming a man who every time he opens his mouth to comment on something, he puts his foot in it.

Seriously, though, we in the Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland will continue to fight for fairness, freedom, and equality to ensure that we safeguard liberty, equality and community not just in Northern Ireland but across the world.

What can we do?

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera and Michael Carchrie Campbell | Photo © 2011 Anne Ramsey

Kasha and Michael outside the Black Box. Photo: Anne Ramsey

According to Kasha, one of the best things we can do, is support the work of her organisation Freedom and Roam Uganda. I spoke briefly with Kasha and said that we have been thinking about her – but I said that it was clear that thinking was not enough – what is needed is action. I am sure that we could all write to the Uganda Ambassador, to the President of Uganda himself, as well as supporting Kasha and FAR Uganda itself.

There are other ways too, we could join Amnesty International which has been instrumental in supporting Kasha and others in Uganda.

Support can be writing letters, financial assistance, voluntary work sharing best practice with the community in Uganda, sending an email. Each of us can do what we feel able.

As Kasha said last night,

receiving an email from a stranger telling you that they support your work, keeps you going, it keeps you going.

Let us all commit to that. Let’s all commit to keeping the struggle going.

Vote Andrew Reeves № 1

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Andrew and Roger Reeves cutting their wedding cake.

Stephen Glenn posted earlier in the week about the Total Politics Blog Awards. Having been somewhat busy this week and also under the weather I only got told about his post when he and I were talking this morning about a project of ours. So, I quote:

Yeah it is that time of year where I have to decide whether I should be upfront and blatant of like Uriah Heep and ever so humble. This year for the Total Politics Blog Awards I have have no such qualms.

GIVE YOUR NUMBER ONE TO

Yeah I’ve lost a great friend and the world has lost a great blogger. Many of my readers will probably also have been readers of Andrew’s blog either because you follow me since I’m a fellow Lib Dem, spent time in Scotland or are a fellow politico. If you did you should also have been aware of Andrew Reeves’ blog. If not Caron has a good summation of what he covered over the last year until his untimely death in early June. As she says “Andrew wrote punchy, pugnacious posts which made their point with all the subtlety of a pneumatic drill.” The most fitting tribute I could have for him is to finish behind him for the first time in the Total Politics Blog Rankings.

So follow the link the survey you have to fill in at least 5 blogs for your vote to count but you can vote for 10. Just remember.

And just like Stephen, I say

Of course as you have to vote for at least 4 more a preference for me would be appreciated.

Related articles

Northern Ireland asks FCC

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Greater Manchester Police

Are GMP to be trusted with all our details? Image via Wikipedia

In response to the security arrangements announced recently by the Federal Conference Committee of the Liberal Democrats, and following consultation with the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats Executive, I drafted an email which has been sent to FCC on this issue. It is reproduced below for information.

Dear Andrew,

I write on behalf of the Executive of the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats and those who are voting representatives to Federal Conference.

The security arrangements which have been put upon the Federal Party members by the Federal Conference Committee apparently at the behest of the local constabulary are completely illiberal and against our Party’s constitution. No outside body has the right to prevent our members from attending our meetings.

The Northern Ireland local party has its own particular concerns about these arrangements as there are a number of problems that we have identified, which I believe will not be exhaustive:

  • Details of dual passports (British and Irish) the details of which for the first time ever will be linked. This has particular problems in that many people will have their name in the British one in English and in the Irish one as Gaeilge (in the Irish language), a fact that will be recorded by Greater Manchester Police and held by West Midlands Police and forwarded to ‘any other police forces’. Does this include the FBI?
  • Further to this, whilst we understand that FCC will have final say for conference, should a Northern Ireland member with dual passports be flagged up by an English, Scottish or Welsh constabulary this may go on their permanent record and permanently affect their  travel between constituent parts of the United Kingdom (to and from Great Britain from Northern Ireland). Our Membership Development Officer, Stephen Glenn, before he was 21 had visited five Iron Curtain countries on a British passport and on his first trip to the United States of America spent four hours in immigration explaining the reasons for these visits. Following this he acquired an Irish passport, to which as an Irish citizen he was entitled, to expedite easy immigration to the United States of America on subsequent visits.
  • Does this therefore mean that Northern Ireland representatives may be adversely affected by a security threat to Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom by a dissident republican terrorist grouping?
  • A senior police officer of the Police Service of Northern Ireland has advised one of our local party executive committee that to ask for the details of both Irish and British passports of those who hold both is both racist and discriminatory under the terms of the Belfast Agreement 1998 (an international treaty), to which Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom is a signatory.
  • Should we recruit new members who may, in the past have convictions or even security records held by police, who are now back in the community following the Belfast Agreement 1998, require accreditation at future conferences, these people will more than likely be flagged as a risk by the police. This would therefore mean that their rights as members of our Party would be denied. This is unacceptable.
  • Another problem is that were a constable to try to check our local party representatives’ local party details using the Federal Party website, he would be hard-pressed to find references to our local party on it. As I have outlined previously to Chris Fox, the link at the bottom of the Federal Party website marked ‘N. Ireland’ goes to the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland’s website. In addition were anyone to check our local party by using our postcode, it will bring up that it is not there. Also by clicking on Northern Ireland on the map on the ‘In your area’ page, nothing is brought up. As I have said to Chris Fox this is not acceptable when we do have a local party operating in Northern Ireland.

I believe that all of these issues are extremely important not only to our Party itself but to the wider representation of society within politics in general. Is our Party, which is founded to ‘build and safeguard a fair, free and open society’ (Preamble to the Federal Constitution (which I believe is still in force or is that another change that will be forced upon us?)), going to be dictated to by an unelected, unrepresentative police force? I was not aware that the United Kingdom had become a police state.

I look forward to receiving your prompt reply on these crucially important issues.

Yours sincerely,

Michael

Michael Carchrie Campbell
Chair
Liberal Democrats NI

I’ve registered to serve you, now over to Greater Manchester Police

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Police cordon at Sheffield Conference

Police cordon at Sheffield Conference this March

As Michael blogged earlier registration for Autumn conference has now opened.

As is laid out in our parties constitution:

Article 6: The Federal Conference
6.1 The conference will consist of
(a) Representatives of Local Parties…
6.3 Representatives of Local Parties shall be elected by all members of the Local Party concerned…

As one of the four the local party elected that way last year I am duly honoured, and booked my hotel and flight to Birmingham months ago. I was just waiting for registration to be opened (I’d missed the deadline for dual registration) and also to know my conference status before applying. The earliest discount period runs out on 10th June giving people less than 10 days from when it was announced to apply, I expect a rush.

This year we all have to submit a new photograph. Mine was a new one only last year I believe! We also have to provide more information to the police not in the West Midlands, but in Greater Manchester to verify. This is more information than I think I had to provide to work at Stormont pre-devolution, it is also more than I recently provided to open a bank account. All because as Michael said I’m going to go for the  lively policy debate –especially seeking to keep the Parliamentary Party in check, the networking opportunities keeping up old ones and developing new ones, plus the Wide Variety of fringe events. Also because as my friend Caron has said of the new “more comprehensive security pass application”:

“do I want the policy of my party to be decided by people who think this sort of stuff is ok? That would just rip the heart and soul out of the party”

The answer of course is no! So I’m hoping to be heading off to Birmingham and have now jumped through all the hoops I have to, just now need to see where I land.

I’ve also put up with the somewhat illiberal way I’ve had to had over details to a police force and any other it would seem for perpetuity for future conferences despite my personal, and I thought party’s, stance against the ID card police state. It is now in the police’s hands whether I get accreditation not the members of the local party who voted for me to be their rep.

Being of course Northern Irish does throw up a couple of additional concerns that I may not be able to attend.

Image courtesy of Sarah Brown

The first form of ID that was requested was my passport number. I thought which one? I’m not alone in this Island of being one of those with more than one. Though I need not have worried as soon as I entered one it bounced up the question do I have a second one. So that is me flagged as a Republican, my fate might be in the hands of a dissident group after all this.

Of course the fact that I am applying for a Northern Irish Local Party may cause eyebrows to be raised. After all you will not find reference to our local party number 900 on the Lib Dem Federal website. Go on try to but in the postcode for Parliament Buildings at Stormont BT4 3XX into the find your local party finder on the home page. Or scroll to the bottom of that page and click on the link to Northern Ireland, do you end up here at Lib Dems NI or here at the Alliance Party? This is something the local party exec have raised with the powers that be and we will be raising it again as a matter of urgency.

So the possibility is that as  local party number 900 (Northern Ireland) somehow does not seem to exist on the party’s own website some over officious bobby may create “the unlikely event that [my] accreditation is unsuccessful” despite me being elected by you, a frequent voting rep in the past, having now paid for flights, accommodation and conference fees.

I just hope we don’t have a Orwellian thought police sanction imposed at future Lib Dem conferences, we like our debate but the hall would end up empty.

Update There is now a petition to keep Liberal Democrat Conference Liberal please go and sign it.

challenging homophobia at home and abroad

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Today we’re all in IDAHO. No, we’re not in the United States for the day, we’re commemorating International Day Against Homophobia. For a number of us, this started at the weekend when we attended the IDAHO service in St George’s Parish Church, in Belfast’s High Street on Sunday afternoon.

Those of us in church on Sunday heard from The Rev’d Brian Stewart, Rector of St George’s that

at this time each year we join with brothers and sisters throughout the world who are concerned that Christian conscience cannot accept that God’s love embraces only heterosexuals.

As Liberal Democrats, we are very supportive of this view – but not just from a Christian perspective. As Liberal Democrats, we are always working to safeguard liberty, equality, and community and the LGBT community across our world is often in need of that help. Jeremy Brown MP, Lib Dem Foreign Office Minister recorded a message in support of IDAHO which can be seen below.

Abroad – International opposition to Uganda‘s ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill

Only last week did the global LGBT community in conjunction with many others come together to fight the proposed Anti-Homosexual Bill that was proposed in Uganda’s parliament. Over 500,000 people signed the petition. Thankfully the Bill has been stopped for now – but the fight continues to prevent it.

At home – Police Crime Statistics show homophobic incidents on the increase in N. Ireland

Last week the Police Service of Northern Ireland released its crime statistics for the year 2010/11. Across Northern Ireland as a whole homophobic incidents rose by 20.6%. The greatest increase was in the G district area which covers Strabane, Foyle, Limavady and Magherafelt areas. This is reflected in the percentage change in the Rural Region which was a rise of 38.0%. Clearly we need to make sure that the message that hate crime is wrong. (Statistics from Hate Motivated Incidents and Crimes Recorded by the Police in Northern Ireland 2010/11)

Join us to safeguard liberty, equality and community

If you, like us, are concerned at homophobia in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, do join us and LGBT Liberal Democrats in fighting this curse on our society.

What next for Scotland?

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Tavish Scott who resigned as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats on Saturday

It has not been an easy week being a Liberal Democrat.

For someone like myself who has spent the majority of the last decade working on getting our message across the voters and our record in Government in Scotland, for part of that time, there will always be a special pull.

Thus it was that last Thursday night I kept saying I’ll wait just to see ‘x’ result or ‘y’ candidates result, many of the Scottish candidates being personal friends. Even though I knew I had to be up early to get to the start of verification for the referendum votes, it was gribbing if very upsetting viewing.

I just couldn’t believe as seat after seat was lost, not just by a bit but to the extent that we were losing deposits, twenty five in total. We took great pride only last May in the fact that the Liberal Democrats were the only party standing UK-wide that didn’t lose a single deposit. Not one constituency on the mainland was won, only Orkney and Shetland and three regional lists returned Liberal Democrats.

Tavish Scott the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats fell on his sword on Saturday. In his resignation statement he said:

“Thursday’s Scottish general election result was disastrous and I must and do take responsibility for the verdict of the electorate.

“The party needs a new direction, new thinking and new leadership to win back the trust of the Scottish people.”

From what I’ve been reading from Scottish colleagues blogs and what they have told me in messages or phone calls, they were getting punished not for their record in Holyrood or Scottish party policies but because of what was happening in Westminster. Some of them were things that we had delivered in Scotland and were promised in Westminster but haven’t been delivered.

Tavish the only former Scottish minister to still be in the Lib Dem team at Holyrood has however taken an honourable course. The party will have to pick itself off, dust itself off and re-establish a distinctive narrative in the Scottish realm. The fact that the electoral map hasn’t looked this bleak for Liberals in Scotland since the 1950s may be discouraging.  But maybe a fresh voice, prepared to mark out the distinctions with Alex Salmond’s SNP and prepared to go toe to toe with the man who has secured a first outright majority at Holyrood is just the fillip the party needs.

It is sad that a great number of really good MSPs who had been working hard for a more Liberal Scotland since 1999 have now be thrown out of Holyrood by this tidal wave. Of course Tavish is not the only Scottish leader who has resigned, both Labour’s Iain Gray and Conservatives Annabel Goldie have said they will step down in the Autumn. He is however, the only one to have stepped down with immediate effect.

The constitution of the Scottish Party says that the leader must come from the rank of the MSPs, which means that there are only four possible replacements. Liam MacArthur the only other constituency MSP for Orkney, the re-election of Alison McInness in the North East and Jim Hume in South of Scotland, plus the election of former MP Willie Rennie in Mid-Scotland and Fife.

We wait top see which of these will take up the torch of Liberalism in Scotland and given the task of inspiring first the party to get back to it and then the people to vote for us once more.

In the meantime I’m sure that Kirsten and little Archie will be delighted to see more of the man of the house, as will the three children of his first marriage, now that he does not have the added responsibilty of being the focal point of the Lib Dems in Scotland.

Gracious, principled, and preparing to fight again – one candidate is missed

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Alex Cole-Hamilton's gracious tweet on election night 2011.

Alex Cole-Hamilton

Caron Lindsay has well and truly summed up the results for our friends in the Scottish Liberal Democrats. One of our contributors who has been somewhat busy with the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign here stood for the Party‘s nomination for Edinburgh Central last year. Stephen Glenn didn’t get the nomination, Alex Cole-Hamiltondid. Even though Alex didn’t get in, I completely agree with what Caron said about him on her blog.

Alex Cole-Hamilton didn’t win Edinburgh Central, despite running the most inspirational and energetic Liberal Democrat campaign in Scotland. He’s unlikely to get in on the list either because Margaret Smith will likely be the only Lib Dem elected, if there is one at all in Lothians. I will admit to a bit of a cry when I read this gracious  tweet from him.

If my defeat tonight is part payment so that no child will spend another night in a detention centre then I accept it, with all my heart.

Principles run deep with him, and his dedication to children shows. I’m gutted he won’t be there, this Parliament at least.

Northern Ireland deserves better

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Liberal Democrats Yes to Fairer VotesTogether with activists from Yes to Fairer Votes members of the Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland will be attending the event at Belfast City Hall at 1pm.

Last May three of Belfast’s four MPs were elected on a minority mandate, without the support of a majority of their constituents. More than 70,000 votes were wasted, cast for a candidate who never stood a chance of representing their supporters.

Local party chair, Michael Carchrie Campbell said:

Today I am proud to be attending with party colleagues the event that shows that Belfast is joining fifty towns and cities across the country to help win an historic victory for all voters in the United Kingdom. It’s an argument we can’t afford to lose.

The choice in May is between change and business as usual. In Belfast the status quo is not an option.

Further updates to come.

Political donations: NIO not promoting a transparent society

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Icon for use on Template:Politics of Northern ...

Image via Wikipedia

The decision of Hugo Swire MP to extend the legislation which prevents the public from finding out about donations to political parties in Northern Ireland is shameful. This is not reasonable.

As the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats said in our submission to the Northern Ireland Office on this subject late last year,

1. A fair, free and open society The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality, and community and in which no one shall be enslaved, by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

2. Openness and transparency

The Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats fully support the openness and transparency that would be brought about by the full implementation of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 in Northern Ireland.

3. Recommendation

Therefore, we support the implementation of Option 12, id est Allow the prescribed period to expire and make the full register of donations available to the public.

Our position has not changed. I do not understand what parties – if not individuals – have got to hide. There ought to be public outcry about this. However, some people may be prepared to continue with the status quo: perhaps they have too much invested in getting politicians to do as they want.

a passion for ending injustice

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What is the Social Liberal Forum?

David Hall-Matthews writes:

The Social Liberal Forum is a group within the Liberal Democrats run by members and activists.  Its aim is simple.  It is to make sure that party policy and direction develops and retails a Social Liberal approach.

This may sound rather esoteric.  But it is quite simply about making sure that our party maintains its passion for ending injustice and for working towards a fair society and ensuring that no one is “enslaved by poverty”.

We’re all aware that both in Government and in local councils up and down the country, the party has difficult decisions to take.  But it’s important that those decisions don’t create more unfairness or create more poverty.

We also know that it is the Social Liberal beliefs of our party that keep us distinctive – quite a challenge when working in coalitions.

You can find out more about the organisation at http://socialliberal.net

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