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Email to Charles Kennedy - Liberal Democrat party 24.1.04

 
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Rab



Joined: 23 Jan 2004
Posts: 66
Location: Japan

Post Post subject: Email to Charles Kennedy - Liberal Democrat party 24.1.04 Reply with quote

Below is an email I sent to Charles Kennedy from his official website in response to his and the Liberal Democrat party's comments and actions regarding Dr. Jenny Tonge and the Palestinian suicide bombers issue.

Dear Mr. Kennedy,
Today I saw on BBC World that you had asked Dr. Jenny Tonge MP to step down from her front bench position because of her recent remarks on Palestinian suicide bombers. I have quoted her remarks from a recent issue of the Jerusalem Post as follows, "It is out of desperation and I guess if I was in their situation, with my children and grandchildren, and I saw no hope for the future at all, I might just think about it myself... From minor things to major things their life does not feel like it is their own...I do not condone suicide bombers. No one can condone them ... but I do understand why people out there become suicide bombers." I assume you are familiar with the comments she made so perhaps you can tell me what was so offensive and unacceptable in these measured remarks.
It seems to me that she has only made a comment on understanding certain actions committed by a human being with human motivations and did not comment that she supported those actions. Similar examples would be those of a penniless mother who steals to feed her child or an addict who steals to buy drugs. In both instances I could easily say I understand why they did what they did. I could also have gone further and said that if I was in their shoes I may have done the same as I am only human and subject to the same failings just like them. This in no way indicates that I condone what they have done (i.e. breaking the law) although the mother deserves more sympathy than the addict in my opinion although ex-addicts may disagree. This is the point though - that we are all allowed to have our own opinions. The best solution though would be to take away the cause of the thefts by making sure no child is in a position to starve and that all addicts get treatment. This would involve first looking at the underlying themes of poverty, drug addiction and hopelessness instead of just condemning theft. this scrutiny of the motives would also therefore humanise the thieves as mothers and addicts rather than just condemning their actions which were taken as a result of the deeper causes.
This seems to me to be the rationale taken by Dr. Tonge in her remarks. In the case of Palestine and the suicide bombers the reasons why people decide to sacrifice their lives must be examined as happy people with loving families and hopes for the future do not usually kill themselves and / or others. People who have lost loved ones to foreign invaders, those who have lost their freedom, those who have lost their dignity and those who have no hopes for the future are much more likely to sacrifice themselves for, as they see it, the good of their families and people. This is what Dr. Tonge has done, examined the underlying causes and I therefore see no reason why she should have to apologise for doing so much less be forced to stand down from a front bench position for having and stating an opinion. Can you please explain when examining a situation with an aim to understanding it and the free expression of opinions are against Liberal Democrat party policies and principles? I can understand why this would be so for the Conservative and Labour parties given their track records but I always thought of the Liberal Democrats as a different kind of party. Was I wrong? Is it now the policy of the Liberal Democrat party to do anything to prevent freedom of thought and greater scrutiny of the broader issues if doing so may incur the wrath of the Americans, Israelis and Labour party?
If not then how can an expression of understanding of someoneís plight and sympathy for that plight ever be confused with support for the actions such a plight causes? Furthermore given that understanding a problem is the first step to solving it how can understanding ever be a bad thing. To stop the symptoms of terrorism, i.e. suicide bombings, hijackings, shootings etc, the symptoms are not the most important things to be treated. Underlying causes must be understood and treated first as these are what motivate people to become terrorists in the first place. Anything that only deals with current terrorists will quickly see new replacements as the factors that created them in the first place will remain in place.
Dr. Tonge is trying to draw attenttion to those underlying factors / motivations to help solve the situation in the long term. She did not say she supported terrorists at any time and for Labour Peer Lord Janner to say "She is saying that she supports people who are suicide bombers, which means murderers and terrorists," is to misquote her, a common tactic in politics as I am sure you know. Furthermore when he said "To say in any way that you understand it, ... is totally disgraceful and wrong," is to state that understanding itself is disgraceful and wrong. Is this also the policy of the Liberal Democrats, that any kind of understanding is wrong unless itís the understanding of a subject approved by you, the Labour Party , The Americans or the Israelis?
I have lived in the Middle East and am curently a Doctoral Candidate in Asia working on Security, Defense and International Affairs so I have some understanding of these matters. Bearing in mind your position in British politics I would hope that you also understand these issues. However recent actions / statements by the Liberal Democrats in supporting the current illegal war and occupation of Iraq and the treatment of Dr. Tonge make me doubt this though. Furthermore depending on the answers I receive from you in response to my questions I may no longer be a Liberal Democrat voter. I look forward to hearing from you soon in the hope that you can clear up some of my confusion on what the principles and policies of the Liberal Democrats actually are.
Yours sincerely,
Rab Paterson,
Doctoral Candidate - International Affairs
Waseda University,
Tokyo,
Japan
Sat Jan 24, 2004 10:26 am
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Rab



Joined: 23 Jan 2004
Posts: 66
Location: Japan

Post Post subject: Charles Kennedy's reply and my response Reply with quote

Dear Colleague
Thank you for your e-mail regarding Dr Jenny Tonge MP standing down as Liberal Democrat frontbench spokesperson for children.† Please accept my apologies for the long delay in the long delay in replying and also if you receive more than one copy of this message.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
Jenny Tonge MP has long been vocal on the plight of the Palestinian people and I have consistently supported her work on international development.† Asking her to step down as frontbench spokesperson on children's issues does not detract, in any way, from this position.†
However, there can be no compromise on comments that justify, or give the appearance of justifying, the use of terrorism and suicide bombings which target and kill innocent people.
As the leader of a political party, I expect all my frontbench spokespeople to ensure that their comments reflect the principles and policies of the Liberal Democrats, especially when speaking on a public platform.†
Jenny is entitled to express her opinions in a manner she sees fit and will, quite rightly, continue to express her views and represent her constituency as a values back-bench Liberal Democrat MP.† Indeed, Jenny herself has welcomed the freedom she will have as a back-bencher to speak her mind.
The situation in the Middle East is complex. The Liberal Democrats believe in two fundamental principles, which need reasserting as often as possible if this conflict is to be resolved.†
The first is that the State of Israel has a right to exist in peace and security within recognised and guaranteed boundaries.† And the second is that the Palestinians are entitled to justice and a viable homeland.† These concepts are to be found in UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and they survived through the Madrid conference, the Oslo Agreement and Camp David.†
I am committed to this position and will continue to press for a resolution to the conflict that respects the rights and liberties of both groups.
The Liberal Democrats will not shrink from making strong criticisms of the policies followed by the Israeli Government, nor will we shrink from opposing the scourge of terrorism wherever it is found.
Thanks once again for writing and I hope this reply helps with your concerns.
Yours sincerely
The Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP

Dear Mr. Kennedy,
thank you for the email. I understand from your position that you are busy so I understand about the delay. However the email itself reads like a form email as it did not refer to me by name. I can live with that also. What I do find unsatisfactory is that your form email does not address any of the points I raised in my original email to you. Furthermore your comments
> Jenny Tonge MP has long been vocal on the plight of the
> Palestinian people and I have consistently supported her work
> on international development. Asking her to step down as
> frontbench spokesperson on children's issues does not detract,
> in any way, from this position.
seem betrayed by your actions. If your asking of her to step down does not detract from her position then why ask her to step down after her comments at all? Also your other comments
> However, there can be no compromise on comments that justify,
> or give the appearance of justifying, the use of terrorism and
> suicide bombings which target and kill innocent people.
make it seem like you did not bother to read my original email. Where in that email, which quoted Dr. Tonge's comments verbatim, does it say that she thought Palestinian terrorists' actions were justified? Once again I ask you to explain how understanding the reasons for an action and supporting that action as being justified can be construed as the same?
> As the leader of a political party, I expect all my frontbench
> spokespeople to ensure that their comments reflect the
> principles and policies of the Liberal Democrats, especially
> when speaking on a public platform.
As a supporter of a political party (until now the the Liberal Democrats) I expect the spokespeople of my party of choice to ensure that their comments reflect the principles for which they claim to stand for - liberal democracy, freedom of speech and thought etc. In this I find your comments in parliament and the media in regard of Dr. Tonge and in reply to my email to be totally unsatisfactory in this regard. You also wrote,
> The situation in the Middle East is complex. The Liberal
> Democrats believe in two fundamental principles, which need
> reasserting as often as possible if this conflict is to be
> resolved.
> The first is that the State of Israel has a right to exist in
> peace and security within recognised and guaranteed
> boundaries. And the second is that the Palestinians are
> entitled to justice and a viable homeland. These
> concepts are to be found in UN Security Council resolutions
> 242 and 338 and they survived through the Madrid conference,
> the Oslo Agreement and Camp David.
> I am committed to this position and will continue to press for
> a resolution to the conflict that respects the rights and
> liberties of both groups.
Perhaps you can also show where Dr. Tonge's comments did not go along with this stated position of the Liberal Democrats as nothing she said seemed against that position from what I read.
> The Liberal Democrats will not shrink from making strong
> criticisms of the policies followed by the Israeli Government,
> nor will we shrink from opposing the scourge of terrorism
> wherever it is found.
Terrorism is defined as using violence or the threat of violence to force others to act in a way they would not normally do. As this then includes many of the actions committed by the US and UK in recent times why then did you not condemn the actions of Bush and Bliar re Afghanistan, Iraq and others?
Far from answering my concerns your email has actually exacerbated them. That being the case I hope your subsequent email will actually deal with the points I raised in my first email and the points from this email.
Yours sincerely,
Rab Paterson
Wed Feb 11, 2004 4:13 pm
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MarkW



Joined: 14 Jan 2004
Posts: 16
Location: Dublin

Post Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
However, there can be no compromise on comments that justify, or give the appearance of justifying, the use of terrorism and suicide bombings which target and kill innocent people.


Charles Kennedy acted in haste over this issue.
He should have standed beside his minister and reiterated his claim that the Liberal Democrats support UN SCR 242.
That he has failed to attack Blair on this topic who promised progress on the Middle East but (as expected, got no help from Washington) is a failure of his leadership.

I always preferred Simon Hughes...
Tue Feb 17, 2004 12:10 pm
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