In the wake of the Ukrainian government's lethal response to the protesters in Kiev's Independence Square, the President of Liberal International, Hans van Baalen MEP, has realased the following statement:
“Until today we heard stories of people being tortured or disappearing. Today we witness people being killed in Ukraine on government orders.
“It should now be clear for President Yanukovich and people surrounding him that they no longer can continue to govern Ukraine under the current terms.
"I send a message to those holding the power in Kiev and the Kremlin: respect the sovereignty of the people of Ukraine and their clear desire for genuine free democracy.
"I call for united action from the EU, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and ODIHR to put in place a comprehensive roadmap that could assist Ukraine to hold elections urgently. Only a fresh democratic mandate from the Ukrainian people can now stabilise the country."
Commenting on the result of the federal elections in Germany, LI President Hans van Baalen MEP has praised the record of German liberals in government and predicted their strong return to the Bundestag.
LI President and leader of the VVD group in the European Parliament, Hans van Baalen MEP, deplores the fact that FDP will not return , after 60 years, to the new Bundestag elected Sunday.
Van Baalen said: “The FDP and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation have always played a vital role in the international and European liberal family. The strong support of FDP to liberal parties around the globe and Liberal International and its regional organisations have contributed much to the advancement of liberalism in the world. Otto Count Lambsdorff, Hans Dietrich Genscher, Walter Scheel and Wolfgang Gerhardt and many other FDP leaders are part of LI's legacy. However, I am confident that FDP will not vanish. It will under new leadership come out of the current existential crisis stronger and more united. FDP will be elected to the European Parliament in May 2014, will reconquer the Federal Republic of Germany from the stronghold NRW and will remain to play its part in Liberal International and in the ALDE Party and ALDE Group.”
The LI President continued: “Over the past decades the German liberals have set up an example of the true meaning of international solidarity among the liberals. Now they can count on the liberals across the world extending their hand of support and in the same spirit of solidarity. Liberal International will certainly champion those efforts.
“Their role in the last government saw them deliver an ambitious manifesto, dedicated to strengthening the German economy and boosting private enterprise – in doing so the Free Democrats were central to keeping unemployment down despite wider European recession. In true liberal fashion, the FDP also fought to secure individual freedom and liberties for all Germans.”
LI President Hans van Baalen MEP has asked the Tunisian interim President Fouad Embazza and acting Prime Minister Mohamed Ghanouchi to include the Social Liberal Party of Tunisia (PSL) in the all party talks for the formation of a government of national unity.
'The fact that the PSL, as a progressive and moderate force which has strong support in the Tunisian middle classes at present, is excluded from the all party talks has a very negative impact on the process of reconciliation and the building of a national consensus on a roadmap to democracy and free and fair elections', said LI President.
“A selective inclusion of political forces is not a government of unity”
LI President Hans van Baalen MEP has reacted to the announcement of the new cabinet by the acting Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi and his decision to crate a transition government involving some of the opposition elements in Tunisia.
“The transitional government announced by Prime Minister Ghannouchi, under the banner of a national unity government, excluded the Liberals and the various parliamentary parties, except the movement ETTAJDID (the former Communist Party of Tunisia), the general secretaries of two socialist parties, Mustafa Ben Jaafar of the Forum for Labour and Liberties (Member of the Socialist International) and Ahmed Najib Chebbi of PDP (socialist leaning), as well as the majority of the RCD (the party of the ousted President Ben Ali). It also includes independent figures demonstrating clear socialist orientation. Such government can never be a government of national reconciliation. The Social Liberal Party (PSL) considers the new government as announcement of a new dictatorship on the back of the liberals and the democrats” said in a statement Mondher Thabet, the leader of the Social Liberal Party (PSL).
“The highly anticipated announcement of the acting Prime Minsiter Ghannouchi presented an unexpected surprise. The decision to exclude the Social Liberal Party of Tunisia (PSL), a parliamentary party and a full member of Liberal International, remains unanswered. It raises concerns about the real intention of the new transition authorities of Tunisia. A selective inclusion of political forces is not a government of unity. Exclusion of entire political blocks represented in the Parliament and political mainstreams from the new authorities is a wrong start of a process of building a national consensus over the necessary transition to a true and genuine democracy. Partial answers to the crisis have been attempted by the previous regime and they failed. What the Tunisian citizens deserve is reconciliation based on inclusive dialogue where all segments of the society and all political mainstreams will be represented” says LI President Hans van Baalen MEP.
London/Strasbourg/Tunis, 17 January 2011
Statement by Senator Mark Perduca (Radicali Italiani)
(courtesy translation from Italian by LI Secretariat) As reported to the Radical Party by the Secretary General of Liberal International, the new Tunisian Government of National Unity remains open exclusively to existing parties and non-parliamentary groups that are of socialist orientation. Outside the new authorities would remain the parties of liberal orientation, such as the Social Liberal Party, as well as all those who in recent years have expressed liberal positions and struggles, and have helped strengthen the dissidence internally and in the Diaspora, encouraging inter alia, radical positions there is no peace without justice, and for nonviolence as a method of resistance to the regime of Ben Ali. If this is the dawn of the new Tunisia it is better that it gets to sunset as soon as possible, and that the European Union, instead of announcing its availability, should end the inertia and begin to fully cooperate, even against the silence of Rome and Paris, in order to meet the highest standards human rights.
Rome, 17 January 2011
Dichiarazione del Senatore Marco Perduca, co-vicepresidente del Partito Radicale Nonviolento:
Secondo quanto comunicato al Partito Radicale dal segretario generale dell'Internazionale Liberale, il nuovo Governo di unità nazionale tunisino sembrebbe aperto esclusivamente ai partiti esistenti nonché ai grupi extra-parlamentari tunisini purché di orientamento socialista. Dalla nuova compagine sarebbero rimasti fuori i partiti di orientamento liberale, come il Partito Social-liberale e anche tutti coloro che negli ultimi anni da posizioni e lotte liberali hanno contribuito a rafforzare la dissidenza nella e della disapora nonché quella interna promuovendo tra l'altro, assieme all'associazione radicale non c'è pace senza giustizia, la nonviolenza come metodo di resistenza al regime di Ben Ali. Se questa è l'alba della nuova Tunisia occorre che tramonti presto e che l'Unione europea, piuttosto che annunciare la propria disponibilità, rompa gli indugi e inizi a cooperare pienamente anche contro i silenzi di Roma e Parigi perché vengano rispettati i più alti standard dei diritti umani.
“Dialogue, unity and stability — the only way forward for Tunisia”
I have been following the news from Tunisia in the past weeks and days with great concern. The news of intimidation, violence and human casualties following the days of protests are highly disturbing. In particular, we are worried about the information of threats and intimidation towards the political leadership of our fellow members from Parti Social Libéral (PSL).
On behalf of Liberal International I strongly condemn the use of violence as manner to gain or to maintain political power. Such an attitude cannot be accepted and all actors involved in violent activities must be brought to justice.
The claims of the protesters must be addressed in a democratic and transparent political process. The statements of President Ben Ali that he would not seek a new term in office and his dismissal of the government are steps in a positive direction. However, they alone are not a solution. What Tunisian citizens need and deserve is to hear a coherent message from all political forces that would come out of a political Convention involving all parties concerned. Such a Convention should take place at a secure location, and should be assisted by the international community, including the EU, the Arab League and the United States. Liberal International is prepared to play its role in such a process.
Only an all inclusive dialogue of all political parties and all civil actors concerned can produce an outcome of the ongoing crisis that would benefit the citizens of Tunisia. Dialogue, unity and stability are the only way forward for Tunisia. Our friends from Parti Social Libéral (PSL) in Tunisia is ready to be involved in such a dialogue, and Liberal International is willing to offer its full support in what ever format it would be needed.
The liberal forces of Europe strongly condemn the violent repression of political protest in the aftermath of the Presidential elections in Belarus on 19 December 2010 when more than 600 people were arrested.
At least 25 civic activists and political opponents of the regime are accused of 'mass disorders' and risk up to 15 years of imprisonment. 23 of them are still detained in remand prisons: among them not only presidential candidates and politicians, but also journalists, intellectuals and our liberal partners.
The European liberals call on the Belarusian authorities to release anyone detained for the expression of critical views regarding the outcome of the election and to avoid the reappearance of the practice of imprisonment of political opponents. We demand that the investigation into the so-called 'mass disorder' be conducted in a proper and politically unbiased way. We strongly demand a clear roadmap for democratic reform and free and fair elections to be developed by the Belarusian authorities with assistance of the international institutions.
"The Ivorian people have chosen liberalism and Alassane Ouattara"
02 December 2010
Immediately after the announcement of the results of the second election round by the Independent Electoral Commission of Cote d'Ivoire, the President of Liberal International Hans van Baalen MEP has send a letter to the RDR leader and President-Elect Alassane D. Ouattara, congratulating him on the election victory.
“I am pleased that after a period of intimidation the Independent Electoral Commission was able to pronounce the results and declare that with 54% the Ivorian people have chosen you are the leader of their Nation.” says the President of Liberal International in the letter to Mr. Ouattara. “As President of Liberal International, allow me to assure you that we will use everything in our power to assist you in ensuring that the people's will in Cote d'Ivoire is respected.”
LI President also addressed a letter to the President Gbagbo reminding that “Now the time has come to honour the commitments given in front of the Ivorian people. Now it is time to accept the will of the people and embrace the result of the elections… I appeal to you Mr. President in the days before the transfer of power to ensure that the security forces under your control maintain the legal and constitutional order, and that they do not serve the purposes of one of the candidates. “ He concluded by reminding: “For a politician and a leader there is nothing more important than the will of the people. The people of Cote d'Ivoire have chosen liberalism and Alassane Ouattara.”
Liberal International we will continue to closely follow all the developments in Cote d'Ivoire and will offer all its support in creating and implementing the policies that will make Cote d'Ivoire yet again one of the leading African nations.
Reference documents: • Letter of LI President Hans van Baalen MEP to President-Elect Alassane D. Ouattara • Letter of LI President Hans van Baalen MEP to President Laurent Gbagbo
Liberal International is deeply concerned by continuous reports from various international organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders, regarding the deterioration of the security situation and the increase in the number of human rights violations particularly where the forces of public order. The situation has not improved after the series of elections earlier this year, which according to the Final Report published by the European Commission were marred by limited freedom of expression and arrests of the representatives of opposition parties.
In February this year I visited Burundi and expressed clear support to the liberal democratic forces in the country and the leader of the Alliance Démocratique pour le Renouveau (ADR), the Honorable Alice Nzomukunda. During the election campaign when Ms. Nzomukunda and her fellow party members were illegally arrested I voiced my concern, which was supported by a Resolution on the LI Executive Committee on the Political Situation in Burundi.
On behalf of Liberal International Bureau I fully align with the Resolution on the situation in Burundi adopted by the General Assembly the Africa Liberal Network. The international community, including the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, and regional organizations, must to continue to monitor closely the political and security situation in Burundi.
On behalf of all the member parties of Liberal International I welcomed the news of the release from house arrrest of Nobel Peace Prize and 1995 LI Prize for Freedom Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during the meeting of the LI Executive Committee this past weekend in Cape Town, South Africa.
As Liberals we are proud of the perseverance and we commend the peaceful struggle of all the members of our member party National League for Democracy (Liberated Areas) inspired by Burma's key democracy figure Aung San Suu Kyi.
Liberal International fully aligns with the statement of our regional sister organisation Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) and insists that the release Aung San Suu Kyi is unconditional and permanent. This is an important step in democratisation of the country that has for decades suffered under the military junta. The freedom, civil rights and liberties of all Burmese people must be guaranteed.
LI will continuosly work with its partners in Burma and Asia, as well within the framework of UN and the international community to pressure the military junta to organise open, free and democratic elections that will reflect the will and aspirations of all Buremese citizens and of all different ethnic communities.
The Liberal International Bureau is closely monitoring the situation in Thailand in the wake of the information received challenging the credentials of the Democrat Party of Thailand, as well as the Thai government. The Bureau has charged the Secretariat to provide further information based on direct meetings with all sides concerned, an analysis of the reports of the international Human Rights organizations, and opinions of NGOs and diplomatic missions in Thailand.
The Bureau expresses concern about allegations against its Thai full member party, the Democrat Party. At the same time, the Bureau expresses support to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the leadership of the Democrat Party in overcoming these challenges, and stands ready to assist our Thai colleagues in the implementation of the 5-point reconciliation plan, as well as the necessary democratization of the Thai legislative framework and in strengthening the Human Rights protection mechanism. We welcome the most recent statement of the Secretary General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty who expressed appreciation “…for the leading role played by the Kingdom [of Thailand] in promoting ASEAN's human rights agenda” and encourage the government to show further progress in this regard.
As President of Liberal International I will pay a visit to Thailand in the coming weeks for high-level meetings to assess the situation in the country. The Bureau will continue to closely monitor the developments in Thailand aiming at providing further information to the member parties.
With regards to the political crisis in Madagascar, the Liberal International recognizes the efforts by the international community through the SADC and the National Coordination of Civil Society Organizations (CNOSC) under the lead of the Head of the Mediation Team, Mr. Joacquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique, to find a consensual and inclusive solution to return promptly to the constitutional order.
LI supports the immediate implementation of political agreements signed by the political movements and recommends a guarantee mechanism of a binding implementation.
LI condemns the unilateral approach taken by Mr. Andry RAJOELINA in the organization of elections that ignore the basic principles of democratic normalisation and free and fair elections.
Also, LI condemns the restriction of fundamental freedoms of citizens and the arbitrary arrests of political leaders in defiance of Human Rights and democracy.
LI encourages the facilitation and mediation of CNOSC and SADC for a consensual and inclusive resolution the crisis.
Déclaration du Président d'IL Hans van Baalen MPE sur la crise politique a Madagascar
Pour la crise politique à Madagascar, l'Internationale Libérale reconnaît les efforts déployés par la Communauté Internationale par le biais de la SADC et de la Coordination Nationale des Organisations de la Société Civile (CNOSC) sous la direction du Chef de l'Equipe de Médiation, Monsieur Joacquim CHISSANO, ancien Président du Mozambique pour trouver une solution consensuelle et inclusive au retour dans les plus brefs délais à l'ordre constitutionnel.
Elle soutient l'application dans l'immédiat des accords politiques signés par les mouvances politiques et recommande une garantie d'une force exécutoire pour leur mise en oeuvre.
Elle condamne la démarche unilatérale entreprise par Monsieur Andry RAJOELINA dans l'organisation des consultations électorales qui ignorent les règles de base de la normalisation démocratique et des élections libres et transparentes.
Elle condamne également la limitation des libertés fondamentales des citoyens et les arrestations arbitraires des dirigeants politiques au mépris des droits de l'homme et de la démocratie.
Elle encourage la facilitation et la médiation de la CNOSC et de la SADC pour une sortie de crise consensuelle et inclusive.
On 30 July, Liberal International President Hans van Baalen MEP attended the inauguration ceremony of President of the Philippines and Leader of the Liberal Party (LI Full Member) NoyNoy Aquino, on a personal invitation by the newly elected head of state.
In a private audience with President Aquino, Mr. Van Baalen discussed the importance of the rule of law and fighting corruption, both issues that played an important role during the campaign of President Aquino and the Liberal Party. According to President Van Baalen, liberal parties in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines should create a common political action plan for rule of law and integrity in government, and should support each other in implementing such a plan. Van Baalen stressed that neither civil liberties nor a functioning market economy are able to bear the pressures of arbitrary government and corruption. After the meeting with Mr. Van Baalen, President Aquino invited the President of Liberal International to come to Manila in the second half of 2010, to discuss the follow up to the action plan suggested by Mr. Van Baalen. Van Baalen also met with delegates from the US, Australia, China, Taiwan and President Ramos Horta of East Timor.
Liberal International welcomes the recent meeting of Cote d'Ivoire leaders and their commitment to promptly resolve the crucial issues regarding the definitive electoral list and the date of the next Presidential elections, pending issues since 2005.
Liberal International recalls the internationally guaranteed agreements on the necessity for full restoration of democracy in Cote d'Ivoire, based on a free, open and fair vote by the Ivorian citizens. We insist that the election process is fully transparent, internationally monitored and with free access to the media for all candidates.
Liberals world-wide express strong support for former Prime Minister and LI Vice President Alassane Dramane Ouattara as a candidate that will bring development and prosperity in Cote d'Ivoire and the region.
Liberal International expresses profound concern at the outcome of the 25 May Surinam elections, which paves the way for Desi BOUTERSE to be potentially elected as President of Surinam. LI recalls his previous criminal record and calls on the Surinam Parliament and the citizens that a potential election of a convicted criminal as Head of State will lead towards international isolation of Surinam with possible grave consequences for the development and well-being of the people of Surinam.
President of Liberal International and leader of the VVD delegation in the European Parliament Hans van Baalen MEP praised the liberal legacy of former VVD leader, longtime parliamentarian and Dutch Deputy Prime Minister Hans Dijkstal, who passed away last week. Mr. Dijkstal gave shape to the first Dutch secular coalition government in the ‘90s paving the way for legalizing gay marriage and euthanasia and sound liberal economic policy.
Van Baalen said: “I deeply respect Hans Dijkstal, who was leader of the VVD when I entered the Dutch parliament. Up till his death he has maintained his unrelenting opposition to the forces of populism and to the politics of hypes, and has remained actively involved as a key figure for a great number of benefits that he deeply cared about, such as Stop Aids Now. I offer my condolences to his wife and two daughters. Hans Dijkstal will be greatly missed”.
On 8 April, the LI/CALD/FNF delegation to Asia met with leading Malaysian politicians. The delegation first met with LI observer Gerakan, a member of the ruling coalition. Later in the afternoon the delegation met with the Justice Party PRK which leads the opposition in Parliament. LI President Hans van Baalen MEP was very clear in concluding that Malaysia is at a cross roads of either strengthening democracy, individual freedoms and the rule of law or facing authoritarian rule in which its citizens are not equal but are judged on the basis of their ethnic and religious background. Van Baalen stated that both Gerakan in government and PRK in opposition can work together as strong defenders of a free, secular, inclusive Malaysia that will cooperate with liberal partners in the rest of Asia to guarantee that Malaysia will be a driver in the continued push for international democracy. Further, Hans van Baalen called on the Malaysian Government not to obstruct Anwar Ibrahim's political activities by politically inspired persecution.
During a Liberal International mission to Thailand, LI President Hans van Baalen MEP personally addressed the Thai Parliament, while a mob of pro-Thaksin Red Shirts stormed the parliamentary building. Van Baalen also discussed the political situation in Thailand with Prime Minister Abhisit, just before a state of emergency was declared in the country. Van Baalen, who is in Thailand as a guest of the ruling Democratic Party of Prime Minister Abhisit, called on all Thai civilians of goodwill to peacefully resist the Red Shirts who support former Prime Minister Thaksin. The Red Shirts stormed government buildings and brought daily life in the country to a standstill, with the aim of returning the former Prime Minister to power. Former Prime Minister Thaksin has been convicted on corruption charges as well as abuse of power. Van Baalen and the Liberal International delegation, consisting of Asian and European delegates, were forced to remain in the Thai parliament for a considerable time, due to the siege of the Red Shirts outside. In the end, the delegation was eventually able to leave the building through one of the back entrances of the parliament. Van Baalen and the members of the Liberal International delegation were unharmed.
LI President Hans van Baalen MEP has called for a democratic movement in the Arab world at the congress of the Network of Arab Liberals (NAL) which was hosted by the Constitutional Union of Morocco and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty with participation of LI and ELDR in Rabat last weekend.
Van Baalen made clear that liberals do not discriminate on the basis of faith, gender, sexual orientation, political conviction or social status. Liberty, Fraternity, Equality and Secularism are the cornerstones of liberalism. Free individuals living in a free society, in a free market will create a better world. Liberal International is the home of the free.
Hans van Baalen named Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam, as an example of the successful integration of a man who was born in Morocco and who is now the first citizen of the port city where Van Baalen himself was born. Aboutaleb is a role model for those who want to become fully integrated into their new homeland without renouncing their country of birth or religious beliefs. All men of goodwill must stand up against those who misuse religion for political purposes including groups which are intolerant towards those who worship a different god, who are agnostic, or towards those who convert to a different religion. The only mistake Mr Aboutaleb made, said Van Baalen tongue in cheek, was becoming a social democrat instead of a liberal democrat.
For Liberal International, Morocco is a country where liberals have carved out an important position in politics. The Constitutional Union (in opposition), the Popular Movement (in government) and the Movement of Independents (in government) have decided to form an electoral pact for the next general elections in 2011, which stands to make liberalism the dominant political force in Morocco. Together with the reforms of King Mohammed VI — who has liberalized hard-line legislation in regards to family law and women's rights resulting in a more tolerant and open society — the strengthening of liberalism as a political instrument in Morocco is an example for the Arab world.
Van Baalen also paid tribute to the member parties, observers and partners of LI in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. The rise of liberalism in the Arab World will make a lasting and just peace with Israel possible. Hans van Baalen said that he is convinced that Israeli liberal politicians such as LI Patron and former Israeli Cabinet Minister Amnon Rubinstein and Arab and Palestinian liberals will be able to contribute to peace and security in the Middle East and to further develop an understanding between the people of Israel and the Palestinians.
Liberal International President Hans van Baalen MEP has strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in Moscow. He stressed the need for more cooperation through international organizations in the worldwide war against terrorism. Van Baalen also expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and the Russian people.
According to Van Baalen: “These cowardly attacks once again show the need for increased international cooperation in the fight against terror. Russia can not defeat terrorism alone. Putin and Medvedev need to reconsider their opposition to NATO and foster stronger relations with its member and partner countries in order to provide better security to its citizens. Terrorist networks are linked from Yemen to Afghanistan to Chechnya. Terrorism is an international problem that requires an international solution. We need to take a stand together.'
In Cadiz, Spain Hans van Baalen MEP, as President of Liberal International and leader of the VVD delegation in the European Parliament, called upon the Socialist Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero to stop his support for Latin American dictators.
'Spain has close ties to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and the Castro brothers in Cuba. In Spain, the democratic elections in Honduras are still not recognised and the normalisation of relations between Honduras and the EU has ground to a halt. The fact that former Finance Minister Gabriela Nunez is not able to attend the LI Cadiz Conference due to blacklisting by the Spanish government is a disgrace. Especially during its EU Presidency, Spain must make a clear choice for democracy and the rule of law in Latin America instead of refusing entry to Latin American democrats like Gabriela Nunez for opposing authoritarianism.'
12 March 2010 - LI President, Hans van Baalen MEP, has described the death on Thursday 11 March 2010 of founder and former leader of D66 and Dutch Minister of State Hans van Mierlo, as “a great loss for D66, The Netherlands and the liberal world”.
President Van Baalen said:
“Hans van Mierlo will be greatly missed by all liberals in The Netherlands, and around the world. He was the Dutch Kennedy, an extraordinary liberal mind whose legacy as a statesman is greatly respected. I worked closely with Mr. Van Mierlo in 2001-2002 in the European Convention to prepare the EU Constitutional Treaty. It was a pleasure and an honor to cooperate with him in the formulation of a new treaty, which would eventually be ratified as the Lisbon Treaty. I offer my condolences to his wife Connie Palmen, his family and his party D66.”
Hans van Mierlo (1931-2010) was founder of LI Full Member D66, and former leader of the party. He was Minister of Defense, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Hans van Mierlo was given the title Minister of State in 1998.
On oral questions in the European Parliament by LI President Hans van Baalen, MEP for the EP ALDE Group, Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos declared that, following its democratic elections and the inauguration of the country's new President, Honduras has returned to its constitutional order. EU relations with Honduras will be normalised as soon as possible and negotiations for an EU-Central American trade agreement will be resumed. With this development, LI positions on Honduras as presented by the LI delegation led by President Van Baalen in Tegucigalpa Mid Novermber last year are now EU policy.
Details of LI's electoral mission to Honduras can be found here and here.
According to Van Baalen, international organisations and individual countries are more concerned with their image than with the effects of their assistance. The feel good factor at home dominates over helping victims on the ground. Money seems not to be the problem; how to spend it is. This sets a poor example for joint reconstruction efforts which are needed as soon as there is some form of stability in Haiti. It is clear that what is left of the Haitian government lacks the expertise and crisis management skills to lead and plan the initial reconstruction process. Nor can it prevent fraud, corruption and favouritism. The international community should therefore take the initiative to form an interim administration which would include Haitian representatives to guide Haiti through the crucial period ahead. The UN is best positioned to be at the core of such an interim administration.
Europe and the US should show their support for protesters in Iran, says Liberal International President Hans van Baalen, and make their opposition to government violence there known.
Van Baalen: ‘We must support the Iranian revolt' (published in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad on December 30th 2009)
Since the elections of last June Iran has descended into chaos. Protestors out on the streets have not wavered in the face of unrelenting violence from government militia and riot police. In demonstrations last Sunday, fifteen were killed and hundreds injured when troops shot at protestors, aiming to kill.
This violence against innocent civilians is unacceptable. The Iranian regime has shown its most heinous of faces. The free West has not responded decisively and has been loath to express unconditional support for the opposition. Instead, the US and the EU have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. This is morally unacceptable and also runs counter to Western interests.
The EU has remained silent. The recently appointed High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, has yet to make a statement on the issue. She holds the most important office in the union, but has so far refused to take responsibility in this matter.
American President Barack Obama first only communicated on the issue through a White House spokesman. Only last week he personally asked the Iranian leadership to stop the violence against the demonstrators and respect their human rights. This is not enough. Obama needs to address the Iranian regime and populace directly. The Iranians need an unambiguous, clear signal from Western democracies. Citizens from around the world are giving voice to their massive support through digital channels like Twitter and Facebook. This spontaneous show of support should be encouraged, and followed up upon by Western governments.
Now is the time to act. The Iranian insurgency has arrived in a critical phase. The regime has lost control of the situation and is divided amongst itself. Its troops are hesitant to follow orders. Prominent clerics have openly sided with the protestors. Even Khomeini's relatives have aligned themselves against the current rulers. The protests have evolved from a limited response to the election results into a full-blown popular revolt against the current administration.
The revolt can draw on support from Iranians of all stripes, both rich and poor, and from moderate and orthodox muslims. The opposition will not yield soon in the fight against its oppressors, at least according to opposition leader Mir Hossein. Last Friday, Mousavi stated that he was willing to pay the ultimate price for reforms in Iran. The regime is under pressure from all sides. And still the US and the EU remain reluctant to take on the Iranian rulers. Catherine Ashton should use her right of initiative to call a meeting of all European ministers of foreign affairs. That would enable the EU to formulate a forceful position regarding the issue. So far however, Ashton has done nothing, undermining the status of the newly minted office she holds. The EU fears this might harm its trade with Iran and feels it should suspend its ideals to serve its business interests. Bad choices now might lead to the loss of even more influence and business in the future. Fear makes for bad judgment.
One of President Obama's campaign pledges was to engage in dialogue with Iran. This promise has made it difficult for him to send the harsh message to Teheran that the violence directed at peaceful protestors has to stop. His statement of last week was far too diplomatically worded. Besides, very little progress has been made on the nuclear issue in the last few years, in spite of promises made by the Iranian government. The regime has proven indifferent to sanctions and diplomatic pressure, and even recently launched a new missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload.
A democratic Iran might be the best, and perhaps the only, option to prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons and get it to abandon its advanced nuclear programme. But while the Iranian people protest for more freedom and democracy, the West has remained apathetic, with China and Russia openly supporting the current regime. The Western stance boils down to passive support of oppression and the approval of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons.
The West must make a choice now. Russia and China must be forced to make one too.
American President John F. Kennedy made his historic statement 46 years ago in Berlin: 'Ich bin ein Berliner.' Those words were meant as a protest against the construction of the Berlin wall, but they also offered priceless moral support to freedom-loving elements behind the Iron Curtain. His words may have been symbolic but they had real effect. It is high time Obama and Ashton follow his lead. They should make their choice for a free Iran unequivocally known. The Iranian opposition can use all the help it can get right now. It is time for Obama to speak these words: 'I am an Iranian.'
Hans van Baalen leads the Dutch right wing liberal party VVD's delegation in European Parliament. He is also President of Liberal International, the World federation of liberal and democratic political parties.
LI President wants international support for Iranian demonstrators
Liberal International President Hans van Baalen MEP expressed his strong support for the Iranian demonstrators, and strongly condemned the unacceptable violence the Iranian regime is using to suppress its people.
Van Baalen said that the Iranian people have the right to judge their leaders, and that the regime should be aware that the world is watching the situation in Iran closely. He stressed the support of Liberal International for freedom and democracy in Iran and called for world leaders to speak out on the violence against the demonstrators. He demanded once more that human rights should be respected worldwide, and also in Iran.
Van Baalen said that the people of Iran are in need of strong support from the European Union and the United States. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and US President Barack Obama should openly express their support for the demonstrators. He also called for the US and EU to develop an international consensus regarding the situation in Iran, and for action against the regime should the situation not improve. Van Baalen also urges Russia and China to denounce the violence against the Iranian demonstrators.
Last Sunday, mass demonstrations against the regime were met with a violent response by Iranian security forces. Iranian state media confirmed the death of 15 protesters during clashes with riot police in Tehran and other Iranian cities. According to Van Baalen, the Iranian people are clearly showing their desire for a free and democratic Iran, and against the regime led by President Achmadinejad and Supreme Leader Khamenei.
A democratic Iran is, according to Hans van Baalen, the best guarantee against an aggressive Iran with nuclear weapons.
Liberal International stands in solidarity with the people of Iran, who have once again taken to the streets to peacefully protest against massive human rights violations by the Iranian regime, and the fraudulent elections of June 2009.
With the final hours of the Un Climate Change Convention in Copenhagen approaching, Liberal International has asked liberal leaders around the world for their statements regarding the importance of the COP15.
“The climate is a matter close to heart for many of us. We need to get an agreement that is ambitious and that can later be confirmed legally. Right now it is about all world leaders acting as leaders and taking responsibility. If we succeed, it will not only create a green shift, but also create jobs and growth throughout the world.”
Maud Olofsson, Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden and Leader of Centerpartiet Sweden
“Les libéraux belges souhaitent vivement la réussite de la Conférence de Copenhague et y prennent une part active, au sein de la délégation de l'Union européenne. Nous considérons qu'un accord est indispensable pour l'avenir de la planète. Il sera inévitablement le fruit de compromis et de bonne volonté et il faudra veiller à éviter tout blocage politique. Pour aboutir, il sera nécessaire de développer un modèle économique viable et orienté vers un développement durable, seul à même de gagner la lutte contre le changement climatique. Ce modèle devra inclure également des modes de transfert de technologies vertes vers les pays en voie de développement. Avec l'Union européenne, nous croyons à la nécessité de fixer des objectifs précis à la diminution des gaz à effet de serre en 2020 et à la force contraignante pour tous les Etats de l'accord auquel on aura abouti sous les auspices de l'ONU. ”
Didier Reynders, Vice-Premier ministre Belge et Président du Mouvement Réformateur
“In the minutes (16.12.) writing these lines there is no progress in the negotiations about how to achieve the maximum 2 degrees goal. I really do hope that the world leaders will show their leadership and take the necessary decisions about the emission reduction goals and the financing of the compensations of the developing world. These are the two crucial decisions to make. I hope for the best. It is the first time the world has the opportunity to use democracy to save our climate form changing in a way destructive for all of us. As it has been said before: fame or shame. We have the decision to make.”
Margrethe Vestager, Leader Det Radikale Venstre Denmark
“We support all the efforts addressed to reach an international agreement to stop climate change. It is necessary to contemplate a multidimensional approach including tax incentives. We need policies promoting low-carbon technologies, the production of electricity by non polluting energies, energy efficiency of buildings and appliances. The use of non polluting energies in transport is a key element too. The market on carbon price and carbon capture and storage, private investments and research and innovative technologies are fundamental elements that must be included for ensuring the success in the application of the agreement.”
Carles A. Gasòliba, President Fundació Llibertat i Democràcia. Catalan Group of the Liberal International
“The EU should stick to its 30% reduction promises. By regaining the leadership position on climate, the EU puts itself in the position to broker a deal with the United States and China. That is crucial to save the summit and our global climate.”
Boris van der Ham, MP for D66 and Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, MEP for D66 in the ALDE Group
'It is sad to know that General Thein Sein, Prime Minister of military regime in Burma attending the Climate Change Conference whereas natural resources of Burma such as natural gas in off-shores, teak in forests and jades in mines have been extracted by Burmese military general mainly for their benefits. Burmese people have been still suffering from any environmental and climate effects cased by these extracts of valuable resources without receiving any benefits from them.”
Moe Zaw Oo, Joint Secretary National League for Democracy (Liberated Area)- Burma
“In this current opportunity, we call upon the international community to undertake the following five actions: Avoiding any catastrophism, complaints and rhetoric will not save the planet; the preservation of the ecosystems is part of economic development; Stop evoking the past; it is not helpful to finding the cure. Instead we shall look at the present and try to interpret the future; Pollution is a global factor, therefore actual total emissions figures shall be favored to emissions percentage value per capita; Provide, through transparent legal obligations for each State in force in a very limited time without imposing ecological duties, a reduction in emissions. These emissions must be quantified, divided and bound, to avoid warming-induced climate; Provide a forward-looking, globally agreed, monitoring system to check the actual weather conditions in the light of actions provided and activities developed in the meantime.”
Raffaello Morelli, President Federazione dei Liberali Italiani
Saturday December 5th, Honorary President of Liberal International Otto Graf Lambsdorff suddenly and unexpectedly passed away at the age of 82. Liberal International President Hans van Baalen MEP offered his condolences to his wife Alexandra, his family and his party the German Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP).
Hans van Baalen described Lambsdorff as one of the most inspiring liberal politicians of the past century and as a courageous statesman who was one of the architects of post War Germany. “He was one of the most open, direct and when necessary bold political fighters for a free market economy and civil liberties, and because of this he earned the name ‘Marktgraf' [Market Count].”
Van Baalen: “Together with Adolfo Suarez, David Steel and Frits Bolkestein, Otto Lambsdorff made Liberal international a more political organisation. His focus was the integration of the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe into the world economy and the international political community. As President of FDP, Liberal International and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, Otto Lambsdorff taught us, the new political generation, not to indulge in political correctness but to speak out, even if it makes you controversial”.
Otto Graf Lambsdorff was born in Germany in 1926. He studied Law and Political Science at the Universities of Bonn and Cologne. He was admitted to the bar at the local and district courts of Dûsseldorf in 1960.
In 1951 he became member of the FDP and in 1972 a Member of Parliament (Bundestag). He was Minister of Economics in several cabinets under Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Chancellor Helmut Kohl from 1977 to June 1984, when he resigned as Federal Minister of Economics. From 1984 until 1988 he was the Parliamentary Spokesman on Economic Affairs. He has been leader of the FDP until 1993.
During his years as Minister and as Member of the Parliament he fought for lower corporate taxation and against state subsidies and bureaucracy, and helped deliver the FDP one of its most successful era's of widespread appeal among the German electorate.
Dr Otto Graf Lambsdorff was President of Liberal International from 1991-1994. He was Liberal International's Honorary President since June 1996. Graf Lambsdorff passed away on 5 December, 2009.
Chief electoral observer for Liberal International in Honduras, Roger Albinyana from Convergencia, Catalunya, Spain, has concluded that the presidential elections were free and fair.
The turn-out was approximately 60% which is, given the 54% four years ago, a strong sign of the commitment of the voters to make a difference in these crucial elections. The elections were held in a peaceful manner. Except for some violence between Zelaya supporters, who wanted to disturb the election process, and riot police in San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in the country, no incidents of any significance were reported. Pepe Lobo of the conservative National Party won the elections by approximately 52% against 38% for Elvin Santos, the candidate for the Liberal Party. The Electoral Tribunal was able to certify that the elections were conducted according to the law. Roger Albinyana toured the capital and the country and also received input from other, local and regional, LI observers and LI cooperating organization, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty.
LI President Hans van Baalen MEP, who led an LI delegation to Central America and to Honduras earlier this month, called on the international community and LI member parties to recognize the outcome of the elections and support President Elect Pepe Lobo who will be inaugurated at the end of January. Van Baalen paid credit to both acting President Roberto Micheletti and PLH presidential candidate Elvin Santos. Micheletti guaranteed that Honduras can return to the Constitutional order in January and has done great service to his country. Micheletti who is a vice president of Liberal International will be invited to play an active role within LI and its Latin American Network RELIAL. Santos fought a fair campaign which will make it possible for Honduras to re-unite which is applauded by LI. Van Baalen asked former president Zelaya to accept the legality and political significance of the elections and to recognize the outcome. In the coming days and weeks Van Baalen will try to create a majority in the European Parliament to recognize Lobo as new president of Honduras.
This week, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to support Liberal International President Hans van Baalen's recent visit to Nicaragua with an LI delegation.
Van Baalen succeeded in uniting the liberal opposition in Nicaragua and criticized Ortega for his unconstitutional plans to seek a second consecutive term as President. The EP censured the way in which Van Baalen and the LI delegation were treated by Ortega and his associates, and condemned the fact that the leader of the Sandinistas wants to push aside the Nicaraguan constitution to secure a second Presidential term. The EP also called for the European Union to exercise greater control over the use of the funds allocated to Nicaragua for development projects ensuring that none of the money falls into the hands of the Sandinistas, to support the democratic opposition in Nicaragua and to send electoral observers to the 2011 Presidential elections. The resolution was supported by a majority consisting of the liberal ALDE group, the Christian Democrats and the Conservatives. The Left voted against the constitution, and supported this position by stating that that were briefed about the particulars of the situation directly by the Nicaraguan ambassador.
During the debate Van Baalen also called for support for the upcoming Presidential elections in Honduras on Sunday 29 November, elections which are not supported by the Leftist groups in the European Parliament.
European Commissioner Karel de Gucht promised to follow the resolution and also stated that the Honduran election will be judged on the basis of its democratic value
ADDRESS BY LI PRESIDENT HANS VAN BAALEN MEP TO THE ELDR CONGRESS IN BARCELONA, CATALONIA, SPAIN (Friday, November 20th 2009)
It is an honour to speak at the Barcelona ELDR Congress as newly elected President of Liberal International, esp. because ELDR is chaired by Annemie Neyts who taught me the game of politics as one of my predecessors within Liberal International and who is a dear colleague in the European Parliament. Annemie taught me that Liberalism is about taking sides and speaking out. I look forward in co-operating with Annemie and ELDR in the years to come.
In my first address as new LI President in Cairo, I stated that Liberals should not try to be liked by their adversaries but should be feared by them. Liberals should not play political tennis, they should play rugby. Annemie is a tough lady which inspires me just like European Commissioner Neelie Kroes. I would like to ask the Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende to put forward Neelie Kroes for a new term as EU Commissioner. Let him put the Dutch and EU interests before his party interests. Balkenende should until the next Dutch elections take care of The Netherlands. Let Neelie take care of Europe!
It is also an honour to address ELDR in Barcelona, the home of Convergencia. Catalan Liberals are our trusted and tested allies. Catalan Liberals like a good fight. LI wishes them well in the coming elections because we need change in Catalan and Spanish politics.
I thank Convergencia by supporting Josep Soler in the Bureau of Liberal International and Joaquina Alemany as President of the International Network of Liberal Women. Together, Josep, Juli Minoves form Andorra, Emil Kirjas and I visted Central America last week. Next week Roger Albinyana from Convergencia will be our Chief Observer at the presidential elections in Honduras. Convergencia is a strong liberal rock in LI and ELDR!
We support the democratic opposition in Nicaragua and closed the Pact of Managua with the 4 liberal parties in Nicaragua to go in to the presidential elections in 2011 with 1 candidate and to unite in Parliament when the Supreme Court and the Electoral Commission will be elected by Parliament next year. We ask from the Spanish EU Presidency not to support Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega who wants an illegal 2nd mandate as president. We want Spain and the EU to support the Nicaraguan constitution and the democratic opposition. Mr Zapatero, do not make a choice against history and the Nicaraguan people! I am proud that Ortega called us a liberal pirates and expelled us from the country because Liberals made a stand and spoke out. They fear us in the Sandinista Headquarters, previously known as the Presidential Palace. Let the EU support democracy in Nicaragua!
We support the democratic presidential elections on November 29 in Honduras and ask the EU to do the same. We speak out against ex President Zelaya who wanted, like Oreta, an illegal 2nd term and ordered the Army to support him which the Army denied. We support the elections and shall, as Liberal International, send observers. We urge the EU to do the same! Mr Zapatero, do not make a choice against history and against the people of Honduras, support the elections!
Dear friends, last year in Stockholm it was my honour to address you as VVD frontrunner in the European elections which produced a strong ALDE Group in the European Parliament. Today, the European liberals under Guy verhofstadt play a key role in European politics. Let us not defend but let us attack! Let us fight for the liberal combination of civil liberties, human rights and a free market. Let us attack! In Europe, at home and in the world. Let us play rugby!
Liberal International President Hans van Baalen wrote a letter of congratulations to Ms. Helen Zille, leader of the Democratic Alliance of South Africa, for the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Progressive Party.
Dear Ms Helen Zille, President of the Democratic Alliance of South Africa,
Liberal International congratulates all liberals in South Africa with the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Progressive Party.
The Progressive Party, led by Mrs Helen Suzman and other brave and committed anti apartheid politicians, and its successors have not only fought with great courage for equality and freedom in South Africa but they have kept South Africa connected to the democratic world. In the period of the Cold War they convinced Western politicians that injustice cannot be combated with injustice but that one can only stand up against communist oppression by respecting our own liberal values and by confronting the South African apartheid regime which denied all of those basic values.
During this period of transition, South African liberals have had an immense influence on the new Democratic Constitution of South Africa and national reconciliation. Today, South African liberals are fighting against single party dominance and contribute to inclusive and transparent government. The growing strength of a multicultural non-racial Democratic Alliance will lead South Africa to a brighter future. The Winds of Change are blowing again through South Africa. Liberal International is proud that the Progressive Party was from the start a decisive force in our international organisation. The Democratic Alliance is still playing that role within LI.
With feelings of great respect and friendship, I remain,
Hans van Baalen MEP President of Liberal International
Liberal International stands in solidarity with Sam Rainsy MP, leader of Cambodia's main opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), who was stripped of parliamentary immunity on Monday, 16 November.
Cambodia's National Assembly, dominated by the ruling Cambodian People's Party, voted in a closed session to allow a lawsuit against Mr. Rainsy on charges of destruction of public property when he encouraged villagers who were evicted from a border area to uproot wooden markers that had been placed along the newly agreed frontier with Vietnam. The legal action is among several others recently taken by the Cambodian authorities aiming to silence dissents and intimidate the opposition. Two other SRP lawmakers, Mu Sochua and Ho Vann, were also stripped of parliamentary immunity after the government filed separate defamation lawsuits in June.
Bi-khim Hsiao, Vice President of Liberal International, stated: “We are appalled by the revoking of Sam Rainsy's parliamentary immunity as a result of the abuse of power by the Cambodian government. Liberal International demands an end to the selective and undemocratic stripping of parliamentary immunity from Members of Parliament, whose duty is to represent the people and to act in their interest, particularly the MPs who speak for people who are deprived of their rights and abused by those in power. LI strongly urges the Cambodian government to take into account the core value of democracy, including tolerance of different views in a free society. We stand firmly in solidarity with Sam Rainsy and his colleagues in their struggles against oppression and intimidation and in their fight for democracy in Cambodia.”
President of Liberal International and Member of the European Parliament Hans van Baalen has spoken with both Honduran interim President Roberto Michelleti and deposed President Manuel Zelaya in Tegucigalpa. During their meetings with Van Baalen, Zelaya and Micheletti both signified to be willing to discuss the political situation in their country with each other as liberals. Zelaya said to Van Baalen to consider accepting the result of the upcoming Presidential election on 29 November.
Van Baalen was the first European politician to gain access to Zelaya, who is currently resident at the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital. Liberal International will be present with a delegation of observers during the elections, to oversee if they are conducted in a free and fair fashion. Interim President Micheletti will effectively become one of the Vice Presidents of Liberal International in January 2010, after he has stepped down in favor of the newly elected President of Honduras. Van Baalen condemned the fact that Zelaya had violated the Honduran constitution, but strongly advocated a reconciliation of all Honduran liberals after the election. According to Van Baalen, the Organisation of American States (OAS) is strongly biased towards Chavez supporters such as Manuel Zelaya and Daniel Ortega. Van Baalen says that when the upcoming elections in Honduras will be free and fair, their result should be respected by the European Union.
The new President of Liberal International, VVD Member of the European Parliament, Hans van Baalen has been expelled from Nicaragua by the Sandinista President Daniel Ortega. Van Baalen heard of this action against him shortly after leaving the country by airplane to Costa Rica.
Following weeks of negotiations behind the scenes Van Baalen had reached a cooperation agreement with the leaders of the Liberal opposition parties in Nicaragua (Bancada Democratica Nicaraguense, Partido Liberal Constitucionalista, Alianza Liberal Nicaraguense). This pact of Managua is a breakthrough because the liberal parties have agreed to present one common Liberal candidate for the upcoming general election. The Liberal opposition has a majority in the parliament but was divided until now. Van Baalen called upon President Ortega to respect the constitution of Nicaragua, which prohibits two successive terms in office.
'Ortega is trying to bypass this article in the constitution illegally. The violation of civil rights is not just a national matter that can be ignored,' according to van Baalen who pointed out that the vision of society as seen by Ortega has no common ground since the fall of the Berlin Wall. He predicted that Ortega will lose the upcoming election because the people of Nicaragua are fed up with corruption and the violation of human rights. Van Baalen made this statement during a packed press conference during which he was threatened verbally and physically by Sandinista activists. Van Baalen did not back down and advised Sr. Ortega not to be afraid of him 'because I am not afraid of you'.
Guy Verhofstadt, ALDE group leader, defended his colleague and denounced the anti-democratic response from the Nicaraguan leadership:
'The expulsion order issued by the Nicaraguan Government is totally unacceptable. If Daniel Ortega is not prepared to countenance free speech and open criticism he has little understanding of democracy and doesn't deserve a new mandate. Hans Van Baalen has my full support in his new role as LI President and was perfectly entitled to urge liberal forces to unite in their opposition to undemocratic governments wherever they may be.'
Annemie Neyts, ELDR Party President also condemned the formal expulsion of her Liberal colleague 'Things are clearly deteriorating in Nicaragua if the President of Liberal International is expelled for voicing criticism of the government. In the past LI has even held its Council meeting in Nicaragua. I welcome Hans Van Baalen's efforts in encouraging agreement between Liberal opposition parties in the country to represent a more effective challenge to the Government.'
Van Baalen will continue his visit to the Americas with Honduras where he will try to mediate between de facto current President Michellite and the expelled elected President Zelaya.
Only a week after assuming the presidency of Liberal International, Hans van Baalen MEP is leading a high level delegation to several Central American states. Other members of the delegation include Juli Minoves, Deputy President, Josep Soler, Bureau Member and Emil Kirjas, Secretary General.
The first stop of the tour is Nicaragua, a state where democracy is under threat by the unconstitutional and totalitarian attitudes of Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega.
Van Baalen urged all Nicaraguan liberals to unite, not to work with Daniel Ortega and to put forward one candidate for the 2011 Presidential elections. Liberal International will support the liberal leader who is chosen as the Presidential candidate through a free and fair process.
'Liberals have to defend the Nicaraguan Constitution which Ortega violates. Liberal International will return on the invitation of all the liberal leaders present today, in order to advise and assist them in realising further cooperation and unity', said President Van Baalen.
Mr. Van Baalen met with the liberal leaders of Nicaragua at the InterContinental hotel in Managua. The meeting was arranged though the invitation of Eduardo Montealegre, and participants included: Indalecio Rodríguez, President of Partido Liberal Independiente; Alejandro Mejía, President of Alianza Liberal Nicaraüense and Arnoldo Alemán, former President of the Republic from Partido Liberal Constitucionalista. Liberal International was also represented by Bureau Member Josep Soler and Secretary General Emil Kirjas. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty was represented by Ulrich Wacker, Regional Director for Latin America and Christian Lüth, Director for Central America.
On 31 October, Hans van Baalen MEP, VVD Member of the European Parliament and former member of the Dutch Parliament, was elected President of Liberal International in Cairo. Liberal International, the world federation of liberal and democratic political parties, is comprised of approximately 100 members and cooperating organizations around the world, including Dutch VVD and D66, Germany's FDP, the Liberal Democrats in Great Britain, and the Liberal Party of Canada and is related to regional networks in Europe (ELDR), Asia (CALD), Africa (ALN), the Arab world (NAL), and Latin America (RELIAL). Van Baalen is the third Dutchman to lead Liberal International since its founding in 1947. Others have included Edzo Toxopeus and Frits Bolkestein. His direct predecessors include: and Lord John Alderdice (United Kingdom), Annemie Neyts (Belgium), Frits Bolkestein (The Netherlands), Lord David Steel (United Kingdom), Otto Graf Lambsdorf (Germany), and Adolfo Suarez (Spain).
His first address as President of Liberal International was delivered to approximately 300 liberal delegates from all over the world. He called for liberals everywhere to abandon nuanced positions and to take a firm stance in defending wherever it is threatened. According to Mr. Van Baalen, the combination of civil rights and the free market constitute the core values of liberalism. “The free market is the solution to the current global financial crisis, not its cause”. Van Baalen stated to the assembled delegates, that the Arab world is preoccupied with Israel and that Arab states use this issue to foster an underlying belief that internal problems are caused by the nation state of Israel. “Set your people free”, was his message to Egypt's President Mubarak and his fellow Arab leaders. “Give them an independent judiciary, parliamentary democracy, civil rights, freedom of the press. Encourage private initiatives and the free market. Treat women, homosexuals, political opponents and religious minorities as your equals.
Do not just recognize Israel formally, but start regarding it as an integral part of the Middle East. Truly commit yourself to the faith of the Palestinian people, encourage peace between Palestinians and Israelis and stand against terrorist acts directly aimed at Israel.” According to Van Baalen, the Arab world has much to offer to the global community when it decides to embrace freedom unconditionally, and to stop characterizing themselves as victims. Liberal delegates of the Egyptian Democratic Front Party, El Ghad Party and Wafd Party supported Van Baalen's words with applause. Van Baalen also shortly met with members of the Egyptian government, including State Minister Mofid Shehab, who spoke to the Liberal International Congress on behalf of President Mubarak.Van Baalen showed his support for a strong alliance between liberals and democrats in the US, Europe and the rest of the world. “In Latin America the populist Chavist movement is gaining ground. In Asia, the power of authoritarian China is increasing and democratic Taiwan is under siege. Elections in Russia are being manipulated. Africa is teetering between progress and Chinese economic and political colonialism, while Europe and the US are withdrawing to protectionism and lethargy instead of defending free trade and the free market with united powers. Liberals have to be on the offensive in the rapidly expanding developed world. A lot will depend on the German FDP, who will be in the German Government, and the American Democrats, who have to live up to the promises of President Obama.”
“That nature of politics is not analogous to a friendly game of tennis — rather it is like a rugby match.” says Van Baalen. “Anyone who participates in such a game can expect to come away worse for wear. Liberals must not strive for acceptance by socialists, greens or conservatives, but must emerge as those best equipped to defend civil rights and the free market. Power politics are needed instead of an academic policy of political correctness.” Van Baalen's first visit will be to Central America, where he will speak to deposed president Zelaya of Honduras and his successor interim President Micheletti. With this, Van Baalen shows that he will not back down from controversy and confrontation.
By Hans van Baalen, Member of the European Parliament for the Dutch Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and Deputy President of Liberal International
Mr Derk Jan Eppink, Dutch MEP for the Belgian List Dedecker (LDD) of the European Conservatives (ECR) is, as we can read in the Wall Street Journal of September 8th, on a crusade against the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) of which my party VVD is a member. Mr Eppink mixes fact and fiction and disregards political reality. His LDD is a opponent of the Open Flemish Liberal Democrats (VLD) which is, alongside VVD, an ALDE member. The OPEN-VLD leader is the seasoned politician and former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt who is also floor leader of ALDE in the European Parliament. Mr Eppink accuses Verhofstadt of being an ideological European federalist who wants to impose heavy European taxes on the citizens of the European member states and who wants Europe to become a super state. Mr Eppink states that Verhofstadt wants to create a left wing majority in the European Parliament of Socialists, Greens and Liberals by which he wants to isolate Christian Democrats and Conservatives and prevent a strong free market coalition. Mr Eppink is fighting a no holds barred vendetta for his populist leader Jean-Marie Dedecker against Verhofstadt. Let us return to the facts.
The ALDE Group consists of moderate centrist parties who combine a passion for the free market and private enterprise with political freedom, human rights and civil liberties. As you know, to be a ´liberal´ means something different in Europe than in the United States. We European Liberals do not want a European super state but a careful balance between what should be accomplished by the member states and what should be accomplished by the Union as a whole. Member states will not vanish but will be the core of the European Democratic process. National Parliaments and the European Parliament will not compete but will work closely in order to provide political scrutiny on all levels of politics. Practical lawmaking is the core business in the European Parliament so groups who differ on the long term future perspective can co-operate well together in daily political work. Even inside political groups MEPs, can differ on political vision. Just like in the US Congress in which Democrats and Republicans are not single minded, closed and coherent political blocks, the European Liberals under Verhofstadt want a strong independent European oversight over the financial markets. We want to protect the open internal market and want it to become freer. We want to reform the European budget for 2013 - 2020 and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) by introducing more market incentives and fewer subsidies. We want to uphold the Stability Pact for the Euro. We want more international free trade. We want Europe to speak with one voice in world affairs and take more international responsibility for stability in the world with civil and military means and in close co-operation with the United States and within NATO. We care for the environment but we do not want to make it impossible for European companies to compete on the world market. Ecology and economy can stimulate each other in a free market environment. We have asked José Manuel Barroso as a candidate for re-election as president of the European Commission to clearly formulate his views on these topics. Barroso has not disappointed in the hearing in our group this week.
Verhofstadt has been very successful to include the European Liberals in a co-operating majority of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats in the European Parliament and has thereby prevented political isolation of our group. This pro-European majority is open to a case by case co-operation with other Groups such as the European Conservatives, the Greens and others. In the case of the re-nomination of Barroso as President of the Commission, a centre-right majority of Christian Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives will support the present and incoming President on the basis of a strong pro-market programme. The Social Democrats will not support him. In the coming years Barroso will have to pay tribute to those Groups who have secured his political future.
Verhofstadt has positioned the European Liberals as king-makers and as a decisive force in the European Parliament. The Dutch liberal party VVD is generally called a conservative liberal party of free marketeers. However, we know and respect Guy Verhofstadt who is considered to be more centre-left. We have never hesitated to support him so because Verhofstadt has proven him self in Belgian, European and international politics as a man of both principle and power politics. He is a realist with a heart. In the few months in which he has led the European Liberals, he has given them a face and a key position the European Parliament.
Mr Eppink is now a member of the European Conservatives, a Group which has had many political clashes in its short existence in the EP and which is a combination of respected and not so respected British Tories who are against the European single currency, Polish politicians seek to ban homosexuals from becoming teachers and Czechs who do not want to open the Czech real-estate market to other European citizens. I predict that Mr Eppink in the years to come will become frustrated not to have opted for membership within the ALDE Group under Verhofstadt. I would recommend him not to seek confrontation with the European Liberals but rather to promote a positive working relationship between the realists in his Conservative Group and the Liberal ALDE Group - for the common interests of our citizens.
Lord Alderdice, President of Liberal International, paid tribute to Mrs Corazon Aquino, former President of the Philippines and Laureate of the LI Prize for Freedom in 1987, who died of colon cancer at the age of 76 on 1st of August 2009.
Lord Alderdice said:
“Mrs Aquino was a courageous and inspiring figure and an icon of democracy. Having courageously led the peaceful People Power Revolutions against the dictatorship in 1986 and successfully brought democracy back to the Philippines, her non-violent approach inspired many other democratic movements around the world. Liberal International was privileged to honour Mrs Aquino's contribution and achievements in advocating democracy and peace with the LI Prize for Freedom in 1987. Mrs Aquino was a much loved and respected leader who will be truly missed and proudly remembered not only by her family and her nation but by her friends in Liberal International all around the world.”
The Liberal International is looking for a qualified candidate to fill the role of Policy and Project Officer at its London Secretariat. The Secretariat's main role is to support the member organizations and Bureau members in their international activities, act as a centre of communication and information and to arrange all the administration associated with an active international federation.
Job description of Liberal International's Policy and Project Officer (m/f)
Profile and criteria
• Dealing with political issues, political developments and events on a global scale • Drafting, preparing and editing policy documents based on liberal ideas • Assisting in development of LI political documents and reports • Drafting publications related to LI activities • Communication and liaising with external organisations and/or institution that would support LI events • Maintaining contacts with member parties and partners • Assisting, initiating, organizing and executing statutory LI events
Additional responsibilities include:
• Looking into external sources of funding of LI events • Preparing, drafting and submitting grant application forms • Coordinating the weekly electronic LI newsletter with the members of the staff • Defining political content, editing the articles and publishing the electronic LI newsletter • Conducting research • Representing LI at external events, when mandated by the Secretary General
The position involves occasional travel abroad and weekend work.
She/he will be:
• Native or fully fluent in English and has a good written and fluent spoken command of French and/or Spanish; this is crucial for communication with member parties. Knowledge of other languages, especially Arabic, Russian or German is an asset. In practice, English is the language most often used in the daily work • Eligible to work in the United Kingdom • Computer literate • Educated to a degree level from a university preferably with a specialization in International Relations • Experienced for at least 1 year in the field of project management, politics, or youth programmes • Open and tolerant towards different cultures and working methods. • Team-spirited • Ready to occasionally work long hours and weekends • A networker, someone not afraid to approach and make new contacts, able to easily build relationships with politicians from all over the world both in formal and informal settings • Sympathetic to liberal ideas and ideologies in politics
The following experiences will be considered an advantage:
• work in parliament, government or an international institution; • work in an international environment; • work under pressure; • work with different political cultures; • knowledge and work with the area of the Middle East and Africa; • having been educated (partly) in the English language
Salary The salary will be commensurate with skill level, experience and education in the range between £20.000 and £24.000 gross per annum based on a 40 hour/week contract.
Apply Please send your cover letter and CV addressed to Liberal International Secretary General Mr. Emil Kirjas to firstname.lastname@example.org. References will be welcomed. The deadline for applications is the 3rd of August 2009 at 23.59 UK time. Interviews will take place either at our office in London or over Skype on the 6th and 7th of August. Preferred starting date is 1 September 2009.
The members of the Bureau of the Liberal International today demanded that the government of Moldova lives up to its international obligations, expressing its strong support for the demands of LI Full Member party the Aleanta Moldova Noastra (AMN) that the authorities guarantee a free and fair campaign ahead of the July 29th parliamentary elections.
Speaking from London on behalf of the LI Bureau directly after its bi-monthly meeting, LI President Lord Alderdice said:
“Reiterating the clear position of Liberal International that I have expressed in various previous statements, it is absolutely crucial that in the run-up to these rescheduled elections the Moldovan government lives up to its international obligations and guarantees a free and fair campaign. This includes its responsibility to meet the demands of the resolutions adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament following the authorities' totally illegitimate use of force against peaceful opposition protesters after the elections in early April. These texts insist that the authorities probe these human rights violations quickly and independently, and also insure the fair appearance of politicians in the Moldovan media.
We have been monitoring with great concern reports coming from Moldova that point out that the obligations are not at all being observed, and that local authorities have aided in tampering with voter lists and willfully exposed voters to Communist propaganda. This is completely unacceptable. The Moldovan government must immediately halt such practices, as there is zero tolerance for any power abuse in free elections. If Moldova is serious about its ambitions to fully embrace democracy and further integrate into the European Union, it is essential that its government strictly adheres to the rules of a liberal democracy.”
Liberal International has been following developments in Honduras recently with deepening concern. The country has seen its Constitution violated and its political and judicial institutions disrespected by the highest political representative in the country. This deterioration in the situation culminated in certain unconstitutional involvement of the military and the events we witnessed last Sunday, the 28th of June 2009. Instead of following a democratic and legal approach in settling political differences, every other possibility was tried, undermining the democratic development of the state. We condemn all unconstitutional acts and deplore the fact that political ambitions have now claimed the lives of innocent people.
As an organization which stands for freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, equal opportunities and social justice, Liberal International calls for the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in the country.
'These two issues, democracy and the rule of law, must be the priority for the political elite in Honduras if they have any concern to rebuild the foundations of political stability and economic development for the country. It is difficult to imagine how those who have so violated the constitution and have acted in contradiction of the rulings of the judiciary can have any credibility in giving leadership in the restoration of the Honduran democracy. The legitimate elected representatives of the Honduran citizens should have our support to take the country out of the current political crisis and lay the ground for the forthcoming presidential elections.' said Lord Alderdice, President of Liberal International.
'The support of the international community in ensuring that the upcoming presidential elections in Honduras are free, fair and democratic remains crucial. They will also provide an opportunity for the Organization of American States (OAS) to regain its shaken credibility after last November's massive fraud at the local elections in Nicaragua, which led to the installment of imposed, rather then elected people's representatives in various places, including the capital city of Managua. It is highly important that the regional organizations and international institutions do not demonstrate double standards.' commented Emil Kirjas, Secretary General of Liberal International.
LI President, Lord Alderdice, has described the death of LI Patron, Ralf Lord Dahrendorf FRS KBE, as leaving a deep personal loss but a powerful liberal legacy.
Lord Alderdice said:
'Ralf was a towering liberal intellect; an inspiring figure. When he spoke in the House of Lords, people from all parties would filter back into the Chamber knowing that whatever he was speaking about would be worth listening to, not only for the enlightenment his thinking always shed on a subject, but also because of the elegant way in which he would say it. A man of deep liberal conviction, great charm, and unfailing courtesy his death has robbed me of a friend and colleague. Liberals everywhere will miss him as I do, but he has left us a marvellous legacy of liberal thought, and writings which will continue to inspire liberals today and through the generations to come.'
LI Président, Lord Alderdice, a décrit la mort d'IL Patron, Lord Ralf Dahrendorf FRS KBE, en laissant une grande perte, mais un puissant héritage libéral.
Lord Alderdice, a déclaré:
'Ralf est un libéral qui domine l'intellect, une figure inspirante. Quand il a parlé à la Chambre des lords, des gens de toutes les parties du filtre dans la chambre, sachant que ce qu'il a parlé de la valeur serait à l'écoute, non seulement pour l'illumination de son toujours mieux la pensée sur un sujet, mais aussi en raison de la façon élégante dont il serait le dire. Un homme de profonde conviction libérale, beaucoup de charme, courtoisie et sa mort a privé de moi un ami et collègue. Libéraux partout manquera comme je le fais, mais il nous a laissé un merveilleux héritage de la pensée libérale, et les écrits qui continuera à inspirer les libéraux d'aujourd'hui et à travers les générations à venir. '
On the 20th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of unarmed students in Tiananmen Square, the Liberal International salutes their memory and the courage of the persecuted dissidents who continue to demand a system of government worthy of the greatness of Chinese civilisation. The Liberal International recalls that the Communist Party has been in sole power in China since 1949 and still fails to respect fundamental human rights and so rules China as a despotism and not, as it claims, as a Peoples Democracy.
Liberal International President Lord Alderdice strongly condemned the arrest yesterday of Rakotonirina Manandafy, LI Vice President and leader of LI Full Member Party MFM, the Progressive Party of Madagascar. Mr. Manandafy, who was recently appointed prime minister by Madagascar's ousted president Marc Ravalomanana, was arrested by armed soldiers loyal to Andry Rajoelina, the army-backed leader heading the regime that took power in the Indian Ocean nation on March 17.
At the Bureau Meeting of Liberal International in Vancouver, Canada on Friday, Lord Alderdice said: 'Liberals from around the world were shocked and appalled by the violent arrest of Mr. Manandafy. We urge that he and other opposition leaders in Madagascar be immediately released without preconditions.
The recent resurgence of violence, disrespect for human rights and atmosphere of intimidation in Madagascar are very worrying. The events show that more than ever there is a need for dialogue and respect for key liberal values such as the basic freedoms of speech and assembly. The use of violence and bloodshed in resolving political disagreements will only further complicate reaching a peaceful solution.
The political movements of Madagascar must now return to engage in dialogue and resume negotiations to reach a compromise to return stability, democracy and the rule of law back to the country. The first International Contact Group meeting in Addis Ababa under joint African Union and United Nations auspices provides the best starting point to reach an acceptable compromise for all parties involved.'
Le Président de l'Internationale Libérale condamne la prise du Vice-président d'IL en Madagascar
Le Président de l'Internationale Libérale, Lord Alderdice, a fortement condamné la prise de Rakotonirina Manandafy, Vice-président d'IL et dirigeant du parti Mpitolona ho amin'ny Fandrosoan'I Madagasikara (MFM) de Madagascar. M. Manandafy, qui a été récemment nommé premier ministre par le président éjecté Marc Ravalomanana, a été arrêté par les soldats armés loyaux à Andry Rajoelina qui a pris pouvoir de la nation d'Océan indienne le 17 mars.
Durant la reunion du Bureau de l'Internationale Libérale à Vancouver, Canada vendredi, Lord Alderdice a dit : « Libéraux d'autour du monde ont été choqué et épouvanté par la prise violente de M. Manandafy. Nous exhortons que lui et les autres dirigeants de l'opposition à Madagascar sont relâchés immédiatement sans preconditions.
La réapparition récente de violence, l'irrévérence pour les droits de l'Homme et l'atmosphère d'intimidation à Madagascar sont très s'inquiètant. Les événements montrent que plus que jamais il y a un besoin pour un dialogue et le respect pour les valeurs libérales comme les libertés fondamentales de discours et de l'assemblée. L'usage de violence et l'effusion de sang en résoudre les désaccords politiques compliqueront seulement plus atteindre une solution paisible.
Les mouvements politiques de Madagascar doivent maintenant résumer des négociations pour atteindre un compromis pour retourner la stabilité, la démocratie et la règle de la loi au pays. La première réunion du Groupe de Contact Internationale à Addis-Abeba sous l'auspices de l'Union Africain et les Nations Unies fournis le meilleur point de départ pour atteindre un compromis acceptable pour tous partis impliqués
As mandated by the 181st Liberal International Executive Committee meeting during its meeting in Strasbourg, France on 25 January 2009, LI Vice-president on the Bureau Juli Minoves-Triquell prepared a report on the ongoing world economic crisis from a liberal viewpoint. The resultant report, that will be presented by Mr. Minoves-Triquell to the 182nd LI Executive Committee in Vancouver, Canada on 2 May 2009, is named The World Economic Crisis: An essay on its origins, characteristics and possible outcomes from a liberal perspective, and can be opened by clicking on the link below.
Liberal International is following with great concern the latest developments in the Republic of Moldova, which followed the parliamentary elections on the 5th April 2009. During the campaign, Liberal International has been alerted by its member party Alleanta Moldova Noastra that the election process was neither free nor democratic, that their access to the public media is very difficult and that their members, just as well as the ordinary citizens, are being subjected to mass intimidation by the government authorities.
Reacting to the elections, Lord Alderdice, President of Liberal International said: “It was no surprise for us to have received the report from the international observer's mission lead by ODIHR that the Moldovan elections have been marred by ‘significant procedural shortcomings'. Having a situation where ‘the public broadcaster…offered preferential treatment of the authorities' is a clear indication that the authorities were not inclined to fully respect their international obligation for democratic and free elections. The report confirms verified cases of ‘intimidation, including by the police, of voters and candidates', and of ‘misuse of administrative resources', thus raising the democratic legitimacy of the election outcome”.
Under the conditions of unfair and undemocratic campaign, Aleanta Moldova Noastra, LI member, has withdrawn from participation in the elections. However, in a written message to LI, neither ALM nor the other liberal parties in Moldova accept any connection with the ongoing violence that has erupted in the country following the announcement of the election results: “We believe that violence is not the solution to this difficult situation in the country, on the other hand we think that people have the right to express freely without being intimidated by the authorities and they should not use violence against protesters.”
Lord Alderdice has called for calm and maintenance of basic democratic values in Cishinau and the other parts of the country. “It is the responsibility of all the politicians in the country, but above all of the government and its institutions to ensure that people have the right to freely express their opinion. There can be no justification for violent protest, as much as there cannot be any justification for using violence by the authorities to silence those who think differently. That is not a question of political debate, it is a basic question of respecting democracy and human rights, which Moldovan authorities have obliged themselves to follow.”
LI President and former Speaker of the Northern Ireland Parliament, Lord Alderdice, addressing a large gathering of newly elected parliamentarians of the 9th Bangladeshi Parliament in Dhaka encouraged the landslide majority Government of Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina to work constructively with the Opposition, though their massive majority does not require it in strictly numerical terms. Speaking to a crowded meeting of MP's where he was giving the closing key-note speech of the National Democratic Institute (NDI)-organized post-election orientation programme, Lord Alderdice also appealed to the Opposition to do all possible to make the parliament work. He said: 'Parliaments are not just talking shops, they are in a very real way the alternative to and bulwark against violence in the community.'
At the very time Lord Alderdice was speaking there was a mutiny of the Bangladesh Rifles (the BDR are the country's border guards) in which many officers and others were killed.
Liberal International (LI) President John Lord Alderdice warmly welcomed the release of Ayman Nour of the Egyptian liberal party El Ghad after more than three years of imprisonment, and announced that the next LI Congress will take place in Cairo, Egypt.
Speaking from Kampala, Uganda, where he is currently representing the Liberal International at a meeting of ALDEPAC, the group of liberal and democratic parliamentarians from the European Union, the Pacific, Africa and the Caribbean, Lord Alderdice commented: 'The release of Ayman Nour is fantastic news. First and foremost for his own freedom and well-being, but also as an inspiration for liberal and democratic forces in Egypt. Mr. Nour's courage and determination in speaking out for the freedom of speech, democracy and political freedoms in Egypt, even at the sacrifice of his own personal freedom, have been an inspiration to many. His intended return in politics is a particularly encouraging sign for liberals in the Middle East, who have so successfully established the Network of Arab Liberals (NAL) over the last few years in which Mr. Nour's party is an active member. As members of the Liberal International across the world, we will continue to actively support Mr. Nour and other liberals in the region. It therefore gives me much pleasure to publicly announce that the 56th Liberal International Congress will take place in Cairo, Egypt, from the 29th of October until the 1st of November 2009. “
The Egyptian liberal party the Democratic Front Party (DFP) has been a member party of LI since the 2007 Belfast Congress, while Mr. Nour's El Ghad party is LI's partner that has initiated the process of formal affiliation with Liberal International.
Speaking in the House of Lords on 21 January, at the official launch of a new report “The Cost of Conflict in the Middle East”, LI President, Lord Alderdice, described this latest endeavour with Sundeep Waslekar, President of the Strategic Foresight Group.
“Our purpose is not to suggest that by producing a report easy solutions will follow. However throughout our endeavours for peace in this region we have become very aware of a certain ignorance, indifference and resigned despair that people have towards the Middle East — simply assuming that a far-away conflict did not affect their day to day lives. The dreadful human costs we have seen mount up in Gaza in recent days should not blind us to the global human cost of this unresolved conflict. This conflict affects the whole world not only in economic terms, but also in profound political, social, environmental, cultural, financial and very real human terms. For the first time in sixty years this report sets out the costs comprehensively, dispassionately and objectively. I have no doubt that people will be shocked by the scale of what they see in facts and figures. It is my hope that it will jolt decision-makers into action.”
A renowned mediator and facilitator of the Good Friday Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland, Lord Alderdice further expanded on how to build lasting peace: “Trust is an outcome, not a prerequisite to building a real and lasting peace. It is self-evidently impossible to trust someone who until quite recently was launching shells onto your houses and towns. But through small steps and setting up mechanisms for moving forward that peace can come about. When Europeans first began to come together in the aftermath of World War II, they focussed on coal and steel, not because they were the cause of all the problems, but because those traditional enemies - Germany and France - had real common social and economic interests which were shared and transnational. These two commonalities eventually became the instrument which was used to bring about the greatest supranational institutions the world has ever known and has guaranteed peace in a continent that had been mired in war for centuries. Water, energy and the environment could provide similar common interests in the Middle East. What this report does is show how much all of us are losing thorough the conflict and how much we stand to gain by its resolution.”
The report was compiled by pains-taking research and by speaking to stakeholders from many of the different communities in the Middle East and from other affected states. Summaries and availability can be accessed on-line at www.strategicforesight.com
Responding to the official inauguration of Barack Obama as 44th President of the United States of America, LI President Lord Alderdice has praised Mr Obama's achievement in winning the election and sweeping into the White House on an unprecedented wave of optimism not only in the USA, but across the world.
“Not since John F Kennedy's victory in 1960 has there been a US election result even remotely like this. We have a thoughtful, intelligent, charismatic leader…but much more than this, by electing the first African-American to the White House, the people of the United States have signaled that they, like so many people across the world, want to see a new kind of politics. Americans have proven to the world that they are ready to cast off past intolerances; ready to create new possibilities for a better world than we have seen in the last tragic decade. The election of a man to the most powerful position in the world, who only a generation ago would have been considered an outsider in his own country, has proven that America is ready to embrace change and help us all move forward with hope into the 21st century. The inauguration of Barack Obama makes this the best day liberals and democrats across the world have known since the day the Berlin Wall came down.”
Endorsed by the National Democratic Committee in August, at an event attended by Lord Alderdice, Deputy President Hans Van Baalen, Vice President Bi-Khim Hsiao and Secretary General Emil Kirjas, Mr. Obama is expected to represent a return to the traditional, liberal democratic values enshrined in the American Constitution.
Liberal International and Democrat Party gathered in Bangkok on 13-14 December 2008 to express clearly that they share same values and are committed to democracy, human rights, rule of law and social justice. Founded in 1947, Liberal International gathers 106 parties of liberal, democratic and progressive profile from continents. Liberal International is proud to have Democrat Party from Thailand as its member.
Over 30 participants from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America participate at the Conference “Safeguarding Democracy: the case of Thailand and its regional/global impacts”. In the aftermath of the dramatic developments from the last few months, liberals from all over the world were determined to gather in Bangkok despite the cautious travel warnings from various ministries of foreign affairs. During the Conference, the participants discussed various models of democratic representation, compared systems of good democratic governance and looked for answers how to strengthen Thai democracy in the future. Special emphasis during the Conference was given to discussing the impact of the recent developments in Thailand on the democratic development of the region and the world.
During the Conference Hans van Baalen, Deputy President of Liberal International and one of the leading members of the Parliament in the Netherlands said: “We trust Democratic Party to lead a clean new government of Thailand. We believe that such new government will inspire all democratic forces in Thailand and more widely in Asia for a true democratic change and liberal policies. For us, democracy is not only an election of a government. For the liberals world-wide democracy represents a functioning governing system which works to the benefit of each and every individual and which is based on openness, transparency and accountability. Democracy should never been taken for granted: it should be always nourished and supported. Liberal International is here to express its clear support to the Democratic Party and to the Thai people.”
The leader of Democrat PartyAbhisit Vejjajiva was firm addressing the opening of the Conference: “It we become the government, we want to reach out to everyone and be government of everyone. In our government the policies will be made for everyone to benefit. Every citizen will get an assurance of being justly treated. That's our understanding of true real democracy”
Speaking from Brussels at the joint Liberal International/ALDE Conference 'The Future of Democracy in Zimbabwe: European assistance under African Leadership', LI President Lord Alderdice once again reitterated LI's support for the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe.
'As Liberal International has actively worked to help our friends in Zimbabwe we have found that our usual approaches, over a number of years, have not worked. These efforts have involved political pressure, electoral assistance, support for sanctions and giving platforms to our opposition friends, including having Morgan Tsvangirai as a major speaker at the 2008 LI Congress in Belfast. Today's event, in conjunction with the ALDE group and our African colleagues, is a working meeting to try to go beyond the efforts to date. There are no easy answers, but sanctions, specifically against the repressive and coercive apparatus, support and preparation for post agreement reconstruction, and international cooperation bringing together not only the EU and USA but also Russia and China, are among the key emerging recommendations.'
Other key guests present at the event included MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube, Chairman of LI full member the Democratic Alliance Joe Seremane and LI Vice President and President of the Africa Liberal Network, Dr Mamadou Lamine Ba.
In response to last weekend's local elections in Nicaragua, LI President Lord Alderdice has spoken out against the reportedly undemocratic and fraudulent results:
“The Nicaraguan local elections were in direct violation of the fundamental principles of liberal democracy. They were a clear example of electoral fraud and we demand a full recount with genuinely independent international observers, for example from the OAS. The ensuing violence and violation of democracy is extremely serious for Nicaragua and for the whole region. Manipulating electoral results debases the principles of democracy are a step backward. Nicaragua's can only move forward through genuine democracy. In conjunction with [LI cooperating organization] the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty, we express our full support for former LI Vice President Eduardo Montealegre, the legitimately elected Mayor of Managua.”
LI Secretary General Emil Kirjas was in Nicaragua in September, witnessing the beginning of the election campaign, which from the first day was marred by unacceptable intimidation from government controlled electoral authorities. As a consequence of a decision by Nicaragua's heavily politically influenced Supreme Electoral Court, Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense (ALN's) activities from April 2006 were declared illegitimate and thus the party was suspended from LI observer member status. LI witnessed how pro-liberal parties have faced harsh conditions from the increasingly dictatorial government. “Manipulating independent institutions is undemocratic and dangerous for the future of the nation. We respect the court's decision, but cannot going to stay silent over the rising authoritarianism in the country,”
In the aftermath of the fraudulent elections, Lord Alderdice joined the head of the Organisation of American States in expressing concern over the allegations of fraud and called on Nicaraguans to resolve the issue through dialogue. “Nicaraguans want and deserve democracy; free elections are a basic precondition of that. The isolationist policy of President Ortega's government towards the OAS and the international friends of Nicaragua will prove dangerous for Nicaraguans and the region. Instead of instability, more democracy is needed,” said Lord Alderdice.
Nicaragua's national institute for Ethics and Transparency stated that voters were barred from polling stations, ensuring a fraudulent outcome. At least two people have been killed and six others injured in post-election violence, according to unconfirmed reports from the country.
Liberal International President, Lord Alderdice, has given a warm welcome to Barack Obama's historic victory in the US Presidential election.
Lord Alderdice said:
'Not since John F Kennedy's victory in 1960 has there been a US election result anything like this, and indeed arguably this result is even more important. We have a thoughtful, intelligent, charismatic leader awaiting inauguration, but more than this, by electing the first African-American to the White House, the people of the United States have signaled that they, like so many people across the world, want to see a different politics. This time the politics of hope, respect and humanity has won out, creating new possibilities for a better world than we have seen in the last tragic decade. The election of Barack Obama makes this the best day liberals and democrats across the world have known since the day the Berlin Wall came down. Even before he takes office, the electrifying way he conducted the election campaign, the positive human values he brings and historic significance of his election makes this a watershed.'
Following the deployment of UN aid to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Dr. Lamine Ba, Vice-President of the Bureau of Liberal International and President of the Africa Liberal Network, spoke out in support of the initiative: “The UN has without doubt both the mandate and the ability to prevent further degeneration in an area marred by continuing violence and violations of the most basic human rights. It is our responsibility, as liberals from both Africa and the rest of the world, to step up whenever basic rights are trampled.” Despite the fact that an extremely fragile ceasefire is in place, the recent rebel offensive - aggravated by a confusion of killing, looting and raping by retreating Congolese soldiers - has created what aid agencies have termed a 'humanitarian catastrophe'. “It is our mandate, as Liberals, to do whatever we can to put a stop to atrocities and to work towards finding a solution which places democracy at the forefront and banishes violence from the DR Congo. We must prevent another Darfur” concluded Dr Lamine Ba. The Liberal International currently has one full member and two observer members (ANADER, L'ARC, and UREC respectively) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Dr. Lamine Ba sur la situation dans le DR Congo : « Nous devons empêcher un autre Darfour »
Appréciant le déploiement d'aide de l'ONU à la République Démocratique du Congo (DRC), Dr. Lamine BA, le Vice-président du Bureau de l'Internationale Libérale et Président du Réseau Libéral Africain, a exprimé tout son soutien à l'initiative onusienne : « il n'y a pas de doute que l'ONU doit avoir le mandat et la capacité à empêcher la poursuite de l'escalade au Congo. La dégradation dans cette partie de l'Afrique Centrale est suffisamment grave car les violations contre les Droits humains fondamentaux les plus élémentaires y sont récurrentes. L'ONU doit mettre davantage de moyens à la disposition de ses troupes qui sont en place (la MONUC). Pour nous libéraux d'Afrique et du reste du monde, c'est notre responsabilité de nous opposer à la violation des Droits de l'Homme ; cela figure dans notre Chartre fondamentale le Manifeste d'Oxford en 1947 déjà ». Le Cessez le feu qui a été convenu par les belligérants nous semble encore trop précaire parce qu'il n'a pu empêcher la poursuite des meurtres viols et pillages dans la zone. Les agences d'aide internationales parlent même de catastrophe humanitaire.
Voilà pourquoi, selon le Dr Lamine BA : « C'est notre devoir et aussi notre responsabilité, en tant que Libéraux, de mobiliser toute notre énergie et notre intelligence pour mettre aux atrocités et travailler à trouver des solutions au nom des principes démocratiques auxquels nous croyons. Nous libéraux avons été des adversaires de la violence et de l'arbitraire ; nous le sommes davantage pour le cas de la RDC. Nous bannissons sans ambages la violence sous toutes ses formes et devons empêcher un autre Darfour au nom de l'Humanisme qui fonde notre philosophie politique. »
L'Internationale Libérale est actuellement bien représentée en RDC avec un membre de plein droit (ANADER) et deux membres observateurs (l'ARC et l'UREC). Ces partis sont également membres du Réseau des partis libéraux africains. Nous leur devons conseil et assistance ainsi qu'au peuple congolais tout entier.
Sixty-three years after the establishment of the most successful forum for international cooperation in history, the importance of the institution has not diminished. It is as important as ever, said Lord Alderdice on the 63rd Anniversary of the UN. “The concept of multilateralism remains as important now as it was in 1945, and the UN stands at the forefront of championing this ideal. The goal of the founding nations to create an organisation which facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and the achievement of world peace are much in line with those of the Liberal International, founded only two years later in 1947. Both organisations hold as paramount the undeniable effectiveness of cooperation through discussion, within the framework of an international law. And both champion the ideals of creating a global order guided by truly human values rather then the short-sighted real-politik that has so often defined the western world or the discrimination against some smaller countries that we had seen in the East.”
“We are now few days away from the crucial elections in the United States of America and all of our member parties around the world hope that the new administration which will soon take up office in the White House will band all its efforts to restore America's commitment to give a lead to a world of multilateral cooperation and dialogue”, added LI President Lord Alderdice.
The UN officially came into existence on 24 October 1945 upon ratification of the Charter by the five permanent members of the Security Council - France, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States - and by a majority of the other 46 signatories. There are currently 192 member states, including nearly every recognized independent state in the world. From its headquarters on international territory in New York City, the UN and its specialized agencies decide on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout the year. The organization is financed from assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states, and has six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.
In an era of constant struggle for democracy worldwide, from South America to Central Asia and from Zimbabwe to China, the UN celebrated, for the first time, the International Day of Democracy on September 15th 2008.
LI President, Lord Alderdice, addressing the Bureau of Liberal International in London today (18th September) praised the initiative not only because it supplied an opportunity to reassess the condition of democracy in the world but also as its aims reflect the causes for which Liberal International (LI) has been relentlessly fighting.
'Supporting democracy is one of the most basic of principles that we as Liberals strive to uphold. The UN, in its commemoration of this most basic tenet, reminds us all that democracy is not something that can just be taken for granted, rather it must constantly be worked at, not only by celebrating the International Day of Democracy of course, but also by ensuring that every day is another day of work for democracy'
Reflecting on the words enshrined in the 1947 Oxford Founding Manifesto of the Liberal International: 'True democracy is inseparable from political liberty and is based on the conscious, free and enlightened consent of the majority, expressed through a free and secret ballot, with due respect for the liberties and opinions of minorities.'
Lord Alderdice said - 'LI will continue to work to develop democratic mechanisms throughout the world. We must strive to ensure that the rights of every citizen and of every individual are respected in the holding of free and fair elections, but this on its own is not sufficient to ensure democracy. We must push the boundaries forward and work together for a more harmonious world in which all people can have their say. We do not stand for one simple, unchanging model of democracy, and certainly not for a tyranny of the majority. The theory and practice of democracy must be continually developing in the light of experience and the principles of Liberalism. Hence our common initiative with the National Democratic Institute in the USA and the other political internationals to ensure minimum standards for the democratic functioning of political parties remains high on our priority list'. Commenting on the Day of Democracy, the President of National Democratic Institute, Kenneth Wollack, states 'on the International Day of Democracy we are once again reminded that democratic principles are universal, shared by citizens from diverse backgrounds and from every region of the world. A challenge before all democracies, old and new, is keeping people's faith and trust that this form of governance will keep its compact with the people to realize human dignity and development'.
Notes of Editors: In November 2007, in an attempt to reinforce the growing need to install democratic principles as well as esteem for both civil rights and liberties on an international scale, the General Assembly pronounced 15th September to be the International Day of Democracy. Reaffirming the ideal of democracy as 'a universal value based on the freely-expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems, and their full participation in all aspects of life.', it called upon Member States, the United Nations system, governmental and non-governmental institutions and individuals around the world to join forces and commemorate the day 'in an appropriate manner that contributes to raising public awareness.'
Address by Mrs Simone Veil Annual Conference of non-governmental organizations associated with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations Wednesday, September 3, 2008 UNESCO - Paris
Mr Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Information, Madam Secretary of State for Human Rights, Mr. Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Madam Speaker of the Conference ... Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would first like to thank you for inviting me to speak before you today. It is my great honor to speak at a conference which this year is exceptional.
For the first time, the Conference of NGOs in partnership with the United Nations will take place not at the United Nations, but in Paris. Already, there are 60, it is here in Paris, the General Assembly of the United Nations, at the initiative of René Cassin, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This event marked our history and is an important step in the recognition of human rights at the international level.
It is worth remembering that this is Europe, which twice in the first half of the twentieth century, led to much of the world into war, before making his commitment to a union counterpoint to the crimes against humanity committed during the 1939-1945 war. Indeed, in the midst of World War II, when the dead are counted by millions, six million men, women and children were murdered for the mere fact of being born Jewish, under conditions which we thought humanity can not. It remains inexplicable to me that musicians, writers and philosophers of democratic countries may have a few years left switch their country under a totalitarian regime, chasing his political opponents before systematically exterminate the Jews and Gypsies, that we too often forget.
I witnessed some of these crimes and, like all the rare survivors, it marked me forever; not a day goes by that I think of Auschwitz, which became the symbol of horror. Men, women and children were murdered. There were also other places of extermination, which is not talked about much because no one survived, and which only the bereaved families are aware. I think of Father Patrick Desbois, who for years has been devoted to Ukraine in search of the mass graves in which at least one million Jews were murdered in the most horrific conditions, even deprived of this basic dignity that is the identity, and it is this fundamental dignity as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the first sentence of the preamble.
Having discussed the horror of Nazism, I would not pay tribute to Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie, as well as three academic beheaded with an ax in 1943 for distributing leaflets hostile to the regime and calling for disobedience.
If the ideal of Human Rights was said in response to these heinous crimes, the defense of these principles is a permanent and universal struggle. It is a struggle of man against the impulses of death and hatred that inhabit a battle of reason against unreason, compassion against indifference. In this ongoing struggle, each has its place, because history is made of a chain of individual and collective responsibility, where we all have a role to play.
Indeed, if the state should be the guarantor of respect for our fundamental rights, we know it was in the twentieth century the instrument of unprecedented crimes. Nazism, fascism and communism have shown that the concentration of power in the hands of one or a few is a danger not only to the population of a country or region, but for entire planet. Today, we know that many states violate the basic rights of their citizens.
Against the excesses of States and the so-called reasons of state, so NGOs have a key role to play in defending the interests of other states do not take into account the needs of deaf and the suffering of their people.
I would like to digress to say that in my opinion, it is futile to oppose in principle the logic of autism States assumed the claims of civil society. Can be a member of a government, without sacrificing his freedom of speech, but freedom of action. As it does not prevent to listen NGOs and advice. Thus, being judge, I was appointed by the Minister of Justice at the time, himself alerted by NGOs, to inform me of the conditions under which, in Algeria, which was still French, detainee treatment condemned for fighting for independence. Having visited most of the places of detention in Algeria, the report that I've done has led to a shift in France most of them, so they are better treated and better protected. A few years later, with the independence of Algeria, all were amnestied.
In a world where the economy and the risks are aggregated, non-governmental organizations have made an early measurement of the global nature of contemporary problems. In many ways, they play a leading role in humanitarian and development aid, but also in the health sector as environmental and, more generally, defending human rights everywhere where they are violated. The very fact of their diversity, NGOs are intended to highlight the plight of those whose rights are not adequately protected. It is true that because of their diversity and independence, it is easy to defend their points of view and different, sometimes conflicting and contradictory interests. This is both for those who are too often forgotten, but also a risk of demagoguery guarantee. That is why NGOs need while remaining diversified remain vigilant to some pitfalls that are all challenges to advance citizen action at the international level. In this regard, the under-representation of NGOs from developing countries in international organizations is unfortunate. Finally, the structure of some NGOs do not always allow them to avoid special interests take precedence over the public interest, particularly in the context of competition between NGOs, each of its customers. In this regard, if within the institutional system is a challenge for NGOs is also a recognition of the quality of work and expertise gained, but the downside may be the loss of militant sap precious.
Finally, the importance of media today is double-edged. They certainly are a great sounding, but the risks are real drift. The media sensationalism, the quest for spectacular, can sometimes obscure fundamental problems of an entirely different magnitude, but are less "telegenic." Internet, for its part, offers real opportunities, it is a tool of extraordinary mobilization, even if the digital divide is a persistent problem, not to mention harmful ideologies that are often conveyed.
Reaffirming Human Rights today is pay special attention to the victims of war, as in Darfur, or devastating epidemics such as AIDS and malaria. It also requires the redefinition of North / South relations, but also by taking into account the people who, although they live in developed countries, are in distress. Reaffirming Human Rights, it is still defending freedom of thought and promote the rights of women, and we know how they are often discriminated against, even in the most tolerant countries, and subject to ineligible family pressures. I think not only the circumcision of girls, but also the deprivation of freedom for others, whether or not married.
Having served for 14 years in the European Parliament, which I chaired after his first election by universal suffrage, I want to emphasize that at the time he had little power, however, it has contributed to supporting movements that s 'opposition to dictatorial regimes. At each of its sessions a day was devoted to discussions on countries where human rights are openly violated. This is most often based on information provided by the NGOs that we have specific response elements. Proposals that we vote in the discussions were not useless, inasmuch as the countries receiving aid from the European Commission in Brussels.
Referring to the role of NGOs, I can not hide the situation of countries that still remain inaccessible. The recent Beijing Olympics, opening China to foreign showed how difficult it was for NGOs to work. This is still the case for more countries than we imagine, although most prevalent is the respect of Human Rights. In the past, it took the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, so that NGOs can exert their action in countries under the yoke of communist and Soviet control. However, the populations of these countries have taken action more or less illegal to maintain associations, allowing them to bypass the political power.
I wish on this occasion to evoke the memory of Bronislaw Geremek just disappeared tragically, as it is of those who is always opposite to the Polish government at the time and allowed the Polish resistance to defend libertés.J 'have had the honor to represent the President of the Republic at his funeral in Warsaw and measure through the words of his friends his role.
Before I conclude, I also want to mention, however briefly, the creation of the Trust Fund for Victims of Crimes under the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague since 2003. This is the case an entirely new initiative, creating in the Criminal Court Fund consists of five persons, impartiality and integrity, each representing a region of the world. Since its inception, I chair the fund set up in 2003 and, for the first time, takes into account the situation of victims. I mention this fund is that the very fact of the tasks entrusted to it, it has to work with NGOs who know the people involved and are able to advise us and especially to implement certain decisions we make. I want to thank them.
At the time of preparing a conference in Geneva, which should follow next year in Durban in 2002, I appealed for it is not the place similar to those abuses to which the world has witnessed . I know that the vast majority of the international community condemn such remarks if they were to be repeated. I want to salute the determination.
After many years, that the hell of Auschwitz led me to assume responsibilities in France and Europe in various causes and alongside personalities from diverse backgrounds, I learned that the commitment the public sphere is perhaps one of the most events "noble" of human freedom. While much remains to be done in this area, the development of international institutions and multilateralism is a source of hope. NGOs, for their involvement in this process play a key role: I want to say to all those represented here by your actions and your words, you are the pricks that remind States of their responsibilities.
The Bureau of the Liberal International strongly condemns the military operation of the Russian Federation within the Republic of Georgia over the last week and expresses deep-felt concerns about the long-term outcome of the crisis on regional and world peace and stability.
In a reaction to the situation, LI Deputy President Hans van Baalen said: 'The separatist Georgian regions of Sout-Ossetia, Abchazia and Adjaria are internationally recognised areas within the Republic of Georgia. Russia should not interfere in Georgia's internal issues, and certainly not by aggressive military means. By its actions, Russia has demonstrated that it still makes claims on territories in the former Soviet Union, which is unacceptable. One is thing is made very clear by the unfolding Russian agression. Vladimir Putin is still the strongest man in the Kremlin, and Russia is still pursuing its imperial ambitions, both through peaceful means (oil and gas diplomacy) as well as through violence.'
Referring to a resolution endorsed by the Estonian parliament, in which the liberals form the majority, LI Vice President and Treasurer on the LI Bureau Silver Meikar commented that 'when the Russian Federation justifies the military aggression with the need to protect Russian citizens, it is using arguments identical to those used by the National Socialist Germany when it attacked its neighbours Czechoslovakia and Poland and crushed their independence. The return to such argumentation causes serious anxiety about world peace. We must support the application of new peacekeeping formats in Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia'. He went on calling the European Union to participate in the peacekeeping missions.
John, Lord Alderdice, LI President ,concluded: 'We have learned through our very painful history that military solutions are not good and lasting ones. The exercise of military superiority towards neighbouring countries and terrirories is a return to the old Imperial and Soviet ways and serves only to raise tension and the prospect of wars well beyond Georgia itself. I believe that dialogue can replace military operations and that Russia, the EU and the United States can be partners. The French President, Mr Sarkozy has tried to convince Russia that there is a better way of doing international business, especially the business of peacekeeping. The credibility of international peacekeeping has to be mantained. In the case of this particular problem it cannot now be done by Russia on its own. It can be only achieved through a truly international UN mandated peacekeeping mission in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and with the participation of the EU, Turkey and other willing nations.'
At its last Congress held in Belfast earlier this year, Liberal International passed 'The World Today' resolution in which LI expressed its conviction that 'the integration in NATO of the other aspirant states like ... Georgia ... will contribute towards further democratisation and stabilisation of the European continent, if they meet the criteria for Membership Action Plan (MAP) and subsequently membership. It is a matter between NATO and the aspirant countries in which Russia has no stake. The Russian 'Near Abroad' principle should not be recognised.'
Lord Alderdice, President of Liberal International, has paid tribute to Lord Russell Johnston, former Scottish Liberal leader and former President of the Parliamentary Council of Europe, who has died in Paris aged 75 years.
Lord Alderdice said:
'I was talking with Russell just last week in the House of Lords, and it is hard to believe that we will not hear his lilting Scottish voice encouraging, entertaining, challenging and upbraiding us, all in the Liberal cause to which he devoted his life and his extraordinary abilities. For many of us in Liberal International, from all around the world, Russell's death is a deep personal loss. He was an inspiring friend, and when he rose to speak we would always listen and inevitably be rewarded by his warm, wise and witty remarks. He would, and did, travel to the ends of earth, at a moment's notice, in the service of liberalism and in support of his multitude of friends. We have lost an irreplaceable friend and colleague. We were fortunate indeed to have known him and had our lives so enriched by him. International liberalism will be forever in his debt.'
This past weekend, former Polish Foreign Minister and MEP for the ALDE group, Bronislaw Geremek, was tragically killed in a car crash. Mr. Geremek was a key political figure in Poland and Europe and liberals everywhere are lamenting this sad loss to the worldwide liberal cause.
LI President Lord Alderdice expressed his deep regret over the loss of Mr. Geremek: 'Mr. Geremek was a genuine liberal who exemplified his deep belief in his political convictions by tirelessly advocating personal freedom as indispensable for the prosperity of a nation and its people. Bronislaw Geremek understood and embraced the view that the ongoing suffering in the developing world was not simply the problem of those nations, but of the whole global community. From his direct hand in toppling communism in Poland to leading his country into NATO, Bronislaw Geremek's accomplishments will not soon be forgotten. All who worked with him will continue in the liberal struggle to face the challenges of our world, energized by the charisma and conviction of spirit that characterized him. His role as a true statesman will remain an inspiration for generations to come, firmly entrenched in the history books of Poland and our common European home.'
LI President Lord Alderdice, ALDE group leader Graham Watson and ELDR (and former LI) President Annemie Neyts have all expressed their regret over this sad loss
Born Jewish in Warsaw, Geremek survived the Holocaust, escaping from the Warsaw ghetto when he was 11 and remained in hiding until the end of the war. His father died at Auschwitz.. In the early 1980s through his political actions, Mr. Geremek contributed directly to the erosion of communism in Poland, which finally resulted in its complete dissolution. After only a brief 10 years of rebuilding, he scored another success for his country by successfully bringing Poland into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. In 2001, he founded the Democratic Union (later merged into The Freedom Union), led its European election campaign and, once elected MEP, missed the Presidency of the European Parliament by only a few votes.
On behalf of LI's member parties and millions of liberals around the world, LI President Lord Alderdice was yet again vocal on the grave situation in Zimbabwe. Lord Alderdice said:
'What the world witnessed yesterday and in recent weeks throughout Zimbabwe has been a totally unacceptable perpetration of violence of a regime against its own citizens. Zimbabweans were brutally beaten, repressed and even murdered, the opposition leaders and NGO's were intimitated, freedom was tossed aside and even access to food was obstructed by Mugabe's regime. Yesterday's poll was anything but a free and democratic expression of will of the Zimbabweans concerning their future. The outome of this election, where President Robert Mugabe was the sole candidate, cannot be accepted as a legitimate expression of the will of Zimbabweans. I strongly echo the statement by delegates at today's ALDEPAC Conference, which alongside 8 European representatives brought together members of parliament and high level officials from 24 ACP (Africa, the Carribean and the Pacific) countries. They called on the international community not to recognise a future Zimbabwean government established on the basis of the outcome of the 27 June 2008 run-off elections. With his attitude and actions, Robert Mugabe has forfeited his right to represent Zimbabweans in the UN or at the other international organisation. Zimbabwe can have a peaceful, fair and prosperous future, but that prospect requires an immediate and genuine dialogue between the government of Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the winner of the first round of presidential elections on 29 March 2008, aiming at returning the freedom to the Zimababwean people and the establishment of a transitional national unity government. '
This past week the UN Security Council unanimously voted in a resolution classifying rape as a tactic of war and a threat to international security. Liberal International Deputy President Hans van Baalen MP expressed the full support of the Liberal International in this very important matter. “Despite recent lobbying efforts, for far too long, women and children have been the silent victims in conflict zones all over the world. Sexual violence is far too often perpetrated against this often voiceless group and as liberals we must speak out against this abhorrent tactic and its devastating consequences. On behalf of the Liberal International, I fully support this UN Resolution and implore all member parties to ensure that this resolution receives all of the support it can in parliaments worldwide.” The UN is also setting up an inquiry to report next June on how widespread the practice is and how to tackle it, though the use of rape as a tactic of war been reported for many years. This issue was discussed at the International Network of Liberal Women's workshop at LI's recent 55th Congress in Belfast and commented upon in several other panels.
This case has been one fraught with acrimony and controversy.
Many legal points have been raised, some of which I have understood, others completely bewildered me. But all the points raised centred around one subject: Whether there was malice when we published that NKF article.
Let me deal with this point. It is clear as daylight that the plaintiffs sued not because their reputations were tarnished but that it was a way to stop our campaigning over the issue during the elections.
Instead of letting the public decide, they have dragged the courts in and insisted that the courts adjudicate in a matter where it should not. In the process, they put the courts in an untenable and unenviable position. This is a tragedy that history will not kindly look upon.
But a court case is what we have and court cases are about seeking the truth and allowing that truth to surface.
As I pointed out, the question centres around whether there was malice on our part. I cannot deny that I get angry and even bitter with Mr Lee Kuan Yew over the things that he has said and done to me and others.
But through the years, I have seen the bigger picture and developed a sense of calm and equanimity that comes with knowing my role in society.
And because I feel at ease, I don't hate Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lee Hsien Loong. I don't wish them ill in anyway despite all that they have done and continue to do to me and my family.
I harbour no hatred towards Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lee Hsien Loong, much less any malice.
To hate my opponents would drag me down to their level of rancour and deceit which has no place in what we're trying to achieve for Singapore. More so I find it too draining and distracting to harbour those emotions.
My Christian faith guides me and it is a faith that compels me to fight for justice and to treat my fellow men and women with compassion.
Mr Lee tempts and taunts me to get out of bankruptcy and get back into the stream of political life that he sits as lord and master. Believe me, in such an environment it is a temptation that can be overpowering.
That I said to Mr Lee Kuan Yew during the cross-examination is exactly where I stand. I feel sorry for him but I don't hate him.
But I also told him that ultimately it isn't about him. Neither is it about his son, and it most certainly is not about me. It is about this country and the people who live in it.
It is about what is just. It is about compassion and how we treat our fellow men. It is about freedom and human dignity.
A society stripped bare of these virtues is a society unable to embrace humanity. But what is society without humanity is a thought too frightening to entertain.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew kept on repeating how he built up this country and how much he has stored in the reserves. That is the tragedy of the man. For all his intelligence, he does not possess the wisdom of life.
Because unlike reputation, character cannot be bought. A true statesmen will not need to fight for his reputation, for that will shine through even after he takes his final bow and leaves the stage of life. His name will linger on and be writ large fondly in the hearts of many for generations to come.
Many lies have been spread about truly great leaders. And yet these lies have never been able to snuff out the greatness in these individuals. On the contrary, their legacy grows in size and intensity.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew fights all his demons within himself to try to shore up his reputation. In the process, however, he destroys the very legacy that he so desperately desires to establish.
Then he pulled out the citation from Transparency International Malaysia and tried to use it as an endorsement of his integrity it, frankly, surprised me because it showed me how empty Mr Lee's life has become.
Such an intelligent man and yet so utterly devoid of wisdom. Can he not understand that no paper, no award, no citation can ever hope to still the voices of those who see the truth behind the propaganda?
I take no joy in pointing out to him how TIM is not an established, well-grounded institution on which one can take pride in being awarded a citation especially on the subject on integrity. In fact, I felt bad to point that out because it seemed that it was all the MM was clinging to.
Mr Lee must understand that integrity cannot, and does not, come from the grandiloquence of one's speech, it must shine forth from the righteousness of one's heart. If that light of righteousness is dim, no amount of persuasion will change reality.
Can he not grasp the fact that no amount of wealth and power can hold back the silent voices forever? When he is no longer with us in this world, no amount of suppression can hold back the vehemence of his critics.
I hope he takes the little time that he has left to ponder what I have said and to turn from his ways. It is not too late.
Over the last couple of days in court I have observed, as have many here, how those around him treat him with such servitude that made my hair stand on end. For whatever reason, they go out of their way to show him their subservience.
They are doing him a disservice by not telling him that he needs to amend his ways if he so desires to uphold his integrity. Maybe he has chosen to surround himself with these yes-people. Either way Mr Lee is moving in life's wrong direction.
Which brings me to the damages. I stand by everything I have written in the article in The New Democrat about the NKF as it relates to the running of this country because it is the truth and Mr Lee and the rulers of this country must always hear the truth no matter how inconvenient that may be.
I know what I say at now will not make a difference in terms of damages because I know it will not make a difference.
I willingly assume the position in this life because if this is the path that God has chosen for me then I cannot run away.
I can leave this country or I can capitulate and join what others have done in politics under the PAP. I will do neither. For to me my own integrity is at stake and that cannot be paid for in dollars.
Mr Lee may try to tempt me out of bankruptcy but it will not work. I may remain a bankrupt for the rest of my life as a result of my obstinacy.
It is not a position one aspires to but it is a cause I find worthy of battle and a call, though sometimes I may resist, I will ultimately trust and obey.
So, Your Honour, we have come to the stage where all of us will be held to account for what we do today. It is said that as we make our bed, so shall we lie in it.
That we do today will live on in history forever. I do not envy your position. I ask that you forgive me if I have offended you in a personal way. I had no intention of doing that. In another place and time, we would be perhaps be good friends.
But I have to take issue with your position as a Judge and what you have done as well as the decisions you have made in this courtroom. To that extent I will fight you with every fibre of my being for the sake of justice.
We all have decisions to make in life. I have made mine and I am at ease with it. You have yours to make. I wish you wisdom and honesty.
Liberal International expresses its firm support for the fight for democracy and freedom of speech by the Singapore Democrat leadership Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin and strongly urges the Singapore government to guarantee democratic rights for its citizens.
Following the conviction of contempt of court by High Court Judge Belinda Ang on 2 June, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin are sentenced to twelve and ten days imprisonment respectively. The conviction resulted from the cross-examination of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his son Mr Lee Hsieh Loong in the assessment of damages hearing held last week.
Today, Dr Chee and Ms Chee have been imprisoned for their commitment to democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The whole liberal family is inspired by the dedication and devotion for democracy shown by SDP members, including the leading personalities Dr Chee and Ms Chee. According to Graham Watson MEP, President of the ALDE group in the European Parliament: “The SDP is the most vocal opposition party in Singapore, openly challenging the PAP [the ruling party] and calling for democratic reform in the country. If the Lees manage to wind-up the party through bankruptcy, they would have managed to rid the country of its democratic vote.”
LI Bureau member Bi-Khim Hsiao expressed her support to Dr Chee's cause: “As Asian democrats we are deeply disturbed by this news. In his commitment to promote a politically liberal society, Dr. Chee has persistently challenged the boundaries curtailing freedom of speech in Singapore. It is unfortunate and regrettable that the government and courts have chosen to respond to his demands for freedom by depriving him of his personal freedom.”
Mario Silva, an MP from the Liberal Party of Canada expressed his dismay at the way the government of Singapore has abused the country's legal system. “The use of legal tactics such as lawsuits and the procedurally unfair adjudication of such matters are reprehensible and it's important that nations such as Canada express their dismay and concern about such tactics.”
Liberal International stands by SDP's resolute position of speaking up for the people who are denied their Constitutional rights to freedoms of speech, assembly and expression. Liberal International also expects from the Singapore authorities to honour its commitments to live up to international standards of justice and democracy ensuring Singaporean citizens their basic human rights.
Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade are both set to address the 55th Congress of the Liberal International on Friday morning in Belfast, Northern Ireland. For Mr. Tsvangirai, who has been abroad since the contested 29 March Zimbabwean presidential election and this crucial visit to the Liberal International Congress will be his last stop before returning to Zimbabwe. The leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, David Ford, and LI President, John, Lord Alderdice will welcome Mr. Tsvangirai and President Wade to the Congress which draws together members of the international liberal family from over 60 countries.
According to Lord Alderdice, speaking from the Europa Hotel in Belfast:
'We are honoured that Mr. Tsvangirai and President Wade have chosen to attend our Congress in Belfast. It is a city often seen as an example that conflict can be overcome when people choose peace and democracy over violence and tyranny. It is an honour for the worldwide liberal family to be in the presence of these distinguished individuals who are dedicated to pursuing basic human rights in Africa. Just as before, during this tumultuous time after the elections in Zimbabwe, Mr. Tsvangirai has the full support of the Liberal International.'
David Ford, leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, also expressed his enthusiasm for the arrival of Mr. Tsvangirai saying: 'It is a tremendous privilege to welcome Morgan Tsvangirai to our Congress and to Northern Ireland. This is an immensely important visit and is indicative of these changing times in our society. Morgan Tsvangirai is a beacon of hope for the whole world. We offer him our full support and hope that he is allowed to take up his rightful position as President of Zimbabwe as soon as possible.'
There will be a press conference from 11:00 to 11:30 in the Exhibition Centre at the Europa Hotel.
The President of Liberal International, Lord John Alderdice and the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats echo the expression of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon of 'deep concern and immense frustration' over the hampered efforts to usher humanitarian aid and disaster relief to the thousands of victims of Cyclone Nargis in Burma.
CALD and LI note with increasing alarm the military regimes obstinate disregard for more extensive international assistance and intervention to address what is a staggering catastrophe and prevent what could well be the onset of deadly epidemics.
In such a dire situation, CALD reiterates the call of its member party, the National Council for the Union of Burma, for full attention to the humanitarian crisis and to defer the referendum on a new constitution, the process which excluded Aung Sang Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy.
Given the state's full control of media, early warnings of the impending cyclone by Thailand and India had been blocked by the junta, thereby directly endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands in the Irrawaddy Delta and surrounding regions. In the cyclone's aftermath, the lack of verifiable information provided by the junta, is adding to the impact and extent of the human tragedy.
Democracy and its fundamental requisites of freedom and respect for human rights, which CALD and LI embrace as their mandate, are the bedrock for the flourishing of society. The scale of devastation and death in Burma -- and the harrowing and repressive official response of the regime -- only serve to amplify the critical urgency of bringing democracy and freedom to the long-suffering people of Burma.
LI and CALD call for the military junta to respond to the call of the international community and the UN Secretary-General to accept assistance and save lives in Burma immediately and unconditionally.
The report of the Liberal International fact finding mission to Turkey, that was led by LI Deputy President Hans van Baalen from 27-30 March 2008, is now available. Please click here to read the report.
The President of Liberal International, Lord Alderdice, has welcomed the invitation to Albania and Croatia to join NATO, but says that he very much regrets the obstructions put in the way of Macedonian membership by the Greek veto.
Lord Alderdice said:
'It is very good news that NATO continues its 'open door' policy of embracing European states that are committed to developing their societies on the principles of liberal democracy. I welcome the invitations to Albania and Croatia, and I hope that the prospects for Georgia and Ukraine continue to be positive. I am however most disappointed that Greece has used its veto to obstruct the NATO invitation to Macedonia. This cannot be in the best interests of Greece and her people. It runs counter to the spirit of these transnational families and I fear that the rest of Europe and our allies are becoming increasingly frustrated by what is seen as unjustified obstructionism.
People are complaining that once inside the EU and NATO, Greece has used its membership to obstruct expansion of the Union and the Treaty Organization, not on the basis of democratic or security objections, nor even national interest, but of the kind of historic enmities we have all been working to overcome in Europe. Such a perception does not serve the best interests of our Greek friends, and I trust that the Greek Government will find a way of resolving the increasing impasse these historic enmities are creating.'
LI Deputy President Hans van Baalen MP is proud that our member party DPP has delivered an uphill struggle for Democracy in the Presidential elections in Taiwan, last Saturday March 22nd. After the general elections in which the KMT conquered parliament, it was clear that DPP's candidate for the Presidency, former Mayor of Kaohsiung, Frank Hsieh, would face a massive trend against the reform policies of President Chen Shui-bian to make the Republic of China more Taiwanese. Furthermore, the lack of an economic upswing was blamed on DPP which was perceived as a party which did not try to bridge the gap between economic superpower Mainland China and Taiwan. That KMT was largely responsible for the political stalemate in Taiwan where the KMT majority in Parliament structurally blocked every proposal made by the Government was forgotten.
Frank Hsieh and his campaign manager Bi-khim Hsiao fought a heroic struggle but lost. Taiwan's Democracy, however, has been firmly established in the 8 years of President Chen's Presidency and the active participation of DPP in all elections over the last years. DPP may have lost, due to DPP Taiwan has won. Liberal International is proud to count among its members DPP and its frontrunners such as President Chen, Vice President Annette Lu, Frank Hsieh and of course Bi-khim Hsiao our responsible Bureau Member and active LI participant and DPP campaigner. Both they and Taiwan can count on our support. DPP will surely be able to recover and win the elections to come. A heavy responsibility rests on President Elect Ma of KMT to safeguard Taiwan's Democracy and the status-quo with the Mainland. Only the people of Taiwan can decide on their future.
Liberal International President, Lord Alderdice has issued a call to Liberals around the world to continue their work towards the elimination of racial discrimination.
In a statement from the LI Headquarters in London, Lord Alderdice said:
'I welcome the way in which US Democrat campaigner Barack Obama has brought the issue of racial discrimination back on to the political agenda in recent days. Despite all the anti-discrimination work and the extensive human rights legislation in the USA, almost half a century after Martin Luther King and the civil rights campigns of the early and mid 1960's, racism is still alive and well in the United States, and what is true there is even more the case in many other countries around the world. Racism and hatred of 'the other' is the springboard for extremism and intolerance, and as liberals it is vitally important for us to fight against racial discrimination and its destructive effects. In 1966, a tragic event took place on 21 March, in Sharpeville, South Africa. Sixty-nine peaceful demonstrators were killed during a protest against apartheid. That incident was a watershed and led to significant commitments and some progress in the struggle against rasicm. The United Nations declared that 21 March should serve as a day of rememberance and reflection.
Today as we reflect on the events of that day as an emblem of racism everywhere, we must recognize that racism is not just the awful scourge of genocide, nor even the daily grinding down of people through prejudice and racial discrimination. Now the global phenomenon of migration and people trafficking, has led to many more people being subjected to racial discrimination and new forms of slavery. Liberals stand for the dignity and freedom of all human beings and are committed to bringing together cultures and celebrating the diversity of people. This respect and enthusiasm for each other with all our differences, including of race and colour, is the key to the promotion of international peace and security among all peoples and nations.
On 21 March, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I call on Liberal colleagues all around the world to continue our work towards honouring our international obligations to oppose all forms of racial discrimination and to secure all practical measures to that end.'
John, Lord Alderdice President, Liberal International
Speech of Senator Barack Obama refered in the Statement of LI President Lord Alderdice:
'We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.'
Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.
The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.
Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.
And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.
This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.
This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.
I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.
Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.
This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either 'too black' or 'not black enough.' We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.
And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.
On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way
But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:
'People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters....And in that single note - hope! - I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope - became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories tha t we didn't need to feel shame about...memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild.'
That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, 'The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past.' We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.
Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.
A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.
This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.
But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicia ns, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.
And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committ ed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.
Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.
This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.
For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.
Ironically, this quintessentially American - and yes, conservative - notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.
The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.
In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.
For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.
We can do that.
But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.
That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, 'Not this time.' This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.
This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.
I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.
There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.
There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.
And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.
She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.
She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.
Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.
Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, 'I am here because of Ashley.'
'I'm here because of Ashley.' By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.
But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.
Disclaimer: Liberal International does not take a stand in the internal election processes of the Democratic Party for selection of its Presidential Nominee 2008. Publishing of the above speech is solely as reference to the statement of LI President due to its great significance on the issue of racism made closely around the time of this important date.
LI Bureau firm on Kosovo, reiterates support for Ahtisaari Plan
London, February 5, 2008
Meeting in London on 1st February, the Bureau of Liberal International discussed recent developments in the Balkans. In light of the second round of the Serbian Presidential Elections and the important upcoming events this spring in the regional context, the Liberal International leadership took a firm position on the future status of Kosovo.
LI President, Lord Alderdice summarised the LI position:
'For a decade and a half it was liberal politicians that were able to take clear positions on developments in the Balkans following the dissolution of the former Yugoslav federation. Whether in the struggle for independence of Croatia or Bosnia-Herzegovina, the sovereign right of Macedonia to choose its name, support of the pro-democratic forces in Serbia, or in the current case, the sovereignty of Kosovo, it was the liberal family that offered early answers to the emerging crises. Without exception these liberal policies were proven to be correct. Tragically, delay in their implementation repeatedly caused dreadful suffering and loss of life. Any further delay over the remaining unresolved issues in the Balkans is deeply dangerous. Liberal International fully endorses the Ahtisaari plan for the future status of Kosovo. The swift implementation of this plan will not only enable better protection of the human rights of all Kosovar citizens, but will ensure democratic development of the new state based on the free will and responsibility of its citizens. Together with democratic maturity of Serbia and the upcoming invitation to Albania, Croatia and Macedonia to join NATO in April this year, the rapid implementation of Martti Ahtisaari's plan can guarantee the stability of the Balkan region in long term'
London, 19 February 2007
Kosovo independence instigates violence in Serbia LI and ELDR denounce the grave attacks to Jovanovic's headquarter
LI and ELDR have been informed that in four municipalities' offices of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Serbia have been demolished on Sunday 17th and Monday 18th February after Kosovo proclaimed its independence. Following acts of vandalism against the residence of LDP Leader Cedomir Jovanovic in Belgrade, ELDR President Annemie Neyts said that the European liberal democrat party is calling “for an investigation into the inciting of violence as well as an investigation into who has produced acts of destruction against the people and the property of the Liberal Democratic Party in Belgrade”. “There is a climax of aggression — added President Neyts - instigated by anti-European lobbies which obstructed during the last Serbian presidential elections the job of the liberal democratic candidate Mr Jovanovic, who strongly supported an effective pro-European solution to the Kosovo status issue”.
“Stones were thrown on Sunday afternoon at the headquarters of the LDP and a break-in and arson were attempted”, informed LDP staff who was working into the building at that time. Mr Jovanovic also denounced the violence from a group of ultranationalist-oriented hooligans that even tried to enter on Sunday into his private apartment. ELDR, LDP and Liberal International appeal to all Serbia's friends in the EU and in the international community as a whole to strongly support the democratic future of Serbia, to encourage Serbia to advance the current standards of human rights and democratic development, and to repeat a clear message to Serbia and the Western Balkan states that their future belongs in the EU.
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan and Laureate of the Liberal International Prize for Freedom in 1989 has been received by Liberal International with immense sadness.
Lord Alderdice, President of Liberal International, strongly condemned her murder and expressed condolences to her family and her followers of behalf of over 100 liberal political parties world-wide:
'When I visited Islamabad earlier this year it was clear to me that the planned return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the upcoming elections in the country were raising real hopes for a restoration of democracy and the chances of stability in South Asia. Instead, we have witnessed a rising tide of political violence and murder. Now tragically Benazir Bhutto, so long an exile from her home and a target of undemocratic forces in Pakistan, has become a victim. This is a terrible tragedy for her family and friends, but also for Pakistan and the whole region of South Asia. I deeply deplore it, and extend my sympathies to her sorrowing people. There must be no mistake. This was an attack on democracy itself, as well as on someone who had come to symbolize democracy for her people.
Benazir Bhutto was a charismatic political leader and the first woman to head the Government of an Islamic State. She was also a determined fighter for the human and social rights of the people of Pakistan. Liberal International is proud to remember Benazir Bhutto as a Laureate and recipient of our Prize for Freedom in 1989.
The Pakistani authorities were well warned of the likelihood of assassination attempts on Benazir Bhutto and if there is to be any hope of stability, they must take immediate measures to bring the perpetrators of this dreadful murder to justice.
I hope that the members of the Pakistani People's Party will react with calm and that the stability of Pakistan and the region will be maintained. Her political legacy will be stronger if the people of Pakistan find a way to ensure that the Benazir's pledge for a democratic Pakistan becomes a reality after the upcoming elections.”
Lord Alderdice, President of Liberal International, the world-wide federation of some 100 liberal political parties, has welcomed the election Nick Clegg as the new Leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats.
"Nick Clegg has already shown himself to be a real asset for liberalism, not just in Britain, but internationally, and I welcome his election and extend heartiest congratulations to him on behalf of the world-wide family of liberals.
Nick describes himself as 'a liberal by instinct and by up-bringing' and has vowed to make Britain 'the liberal country I believe the British people want it to be.' He has also talked of being 'ambitious' for British Liberalism. These are deeply welcome sentiments which I share and applaud. I know too that his ambition for liberalism is one that he sees not just in the context of Britain but of the wider world, and we look forward to working with him to implement that vision."
Liberal International has expressed full support for the candidates of Liberal International member party Yabloko ahead of the December 2 parliamentary elections in the Russian Federation. Speaking in Ankara, Turkey on Friday, Lord Alderdice, President of Liberal International, strongly condemned the violence used by police in St. Petersburg against members of the Russian opposition, including Yabloko, during peaceful demonstrations ahead of the election day.
Lord Alderdice said:
'The use of violence by the Russian authorities against opposition politicians is totally unwarranted and unacceptable. Dozens of party members and election candidates for Yabloko who were participating in completely peaceful protests and demonstrations in St. Petersburg were brutally attacked, beaten, and arrested. These deplorable tactics to intimidate and harras political opponents ahead of the parliamentary elections send a deeply worrying signal that elements of the government of President Putin are not willing to respect their obligations for democracy and freedom of speech guaranteed through Russia's membership in the Council of Erurope and OSCE'.
Liberal International also strongly denounced the assassination of Farid Babayev, the leader of Yabloko in the northen Causcasian Republic of Dagestan and candidate for the Duma. Mr. Alexander Shishlov, LI Treasurer, joined other opposition leaders in Russia in condemning his brutal death ahead of the elections as 'a shocking political murder'.
Lord Alderdice continued:
'On behalf of the worldwide liberal family, I express my strong support for the candidates of Yabloko in the parliamentary elections on Sunday December 2. We all want Russia to continue to belong to the family of world democracies but this requires us to insist that democratic principles are upheld regardless of who governs the Russian Federation. We are watching very closely the conduct of these elections, hoping that President Putin and all those in his administration are aware that there is no stable and fair alternative to freedom and democracy for all Russian citizens.'
Liberal International President Lord Alderdice has called on Liberals from around the world to take their responsibility to work for the elimination of violence against women.
Speaking in London, Lord Alderdice said:
'Tragically, not only is violence an ever-present part of personal and social life for many women throughout the world, but in some societies the law not only permits but even facilitates it, as evidenced by the recent horrifying sentence of a female rape victim to gross physical abuse by lashing in Saudi Arabia.
In addition, recent years have seen an increasing incidence of sexual violence against women being used as a conscious strategy employed by armed groups to humiliate opponents, terrify individuals and destroy societies. The use of sexual violence in armed conflict is a war crime and a gross human rights violation, but it is under-addressed due to the weak international capacity to protect women and girls from violence, and to prosecute those who commit these crimes.
On November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, I call on Liberal colleagues from around the world to raise awareness for the urgent need to tackle the unacceptable reality of violence against women, in all its ugly manifestations.'
At its 179th Executive Committee meeting in Hamburg, Germany, Liberal International supported the statement of its member party Folkpartiet Liberalerna rejecting Robert Mugabe's continuing campaign to lay blame for Zimbabwe's ills on the political opposition, civil society and imperialist intervention but holds him personally responsible for leading a destructive and corrupt regime determined to retain power at any cost to the people, institutions and economy of Zimbabwe.
Liberal International expresses its solidarity with the many brave people of Zimbabwe, whether inside the country or forced into exile, who are determined to uphold respect for human rights, democratic freedoms and the rule of law, and joins them in calling on the governments of the African Union and European Union to work towards Robert Mugabe's non- participation in the forthcoming EU-Africa summit in Lisbon.
LI President, Lord Alderdice, has thrown his support behind a resolution to the 60th Anniversary International Bar Association Conference in Singapore, calling on the IBA to press the Singapore Government on their persecution of freedom advocates in the country. Lord Alderdice, who has previously spoken out on this issue and also raised the issue through the House of Lords, said:
'I welcome the decision of the the International Bar Association to have their conference in Singapore because it will give this prestigious and powerful body of lawyers from around the world an unparalleled opportunity to raise with the Singapore authorities the injustice of the policy of using the courts and the legal system, not to protect but to oppress their own people and close down all freedom in the country. The Singapore Government's policies have impacted brutally on opposition politicians, attempting to intimidate into silence all criticism of an increasingly authoritarian government. The Government has done all possible to prevent freedom advocates from communicating actively with colleagues around the world.
The IBA is bringing the legal world to Singapore, and I trust that they will use their influence to prise open the windows of freedom of speech, which is of course in the long-term interests, not only of our colleagues in Singapore, but of the country itself.'
THIS RESOLUTION calls on the IBA which is holding its prestigious annual conference in Singapore from October 14-19, 2007, to take an unequivocal stand on the human rights violations and curtailment of democratic development in Singapore. Such a stand is consistent with principles outlined in the IBA's 2005 Resolution on the Rule of Law adopted in Prague.
Appreciative of the effort made by the IBA to hold the Rule of Law Symposium during its annual conference and opening the attendance to members of the public in Singapore;
Concerned that there are several outstanding cases of criminal prosecution and police investigation against democracy activists for speaking in public and for holding public gatherings in Singapore;
Aware of the on-going defamation suits against the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and the Far Eastern Economic Review by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew as well as numerous past cases of defamation suits brought on by ruling People's Action Party leaders and officials against members of opposition parties;
Vexed by the continued ban on SDP Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan's travel overseas as well as the disbarment of his standing for elections as a result of his bankruptcy from repeated defamation suits;
Alarmed at the award of summary judgments to the PAP plaintiffs in defamation lawsuits in 2001 and 2006 involving Chee Soon Juan, Chee Siok Chin and the SDP, and the con-sistent and repeated awarding of cases to the Singapore Government and the PAP in court cases by the Judiciary;
Noting the use of detention without trial on political dissidents and the intimidation of released political prisoners;
Wary that there is no independent election commission and that elections are conducted by the Elections Department which is supervised by the Prime Minister's Office;
Saddened by the control of the media through state-owned companies like MediaCorp and the Singapore Press Holdings as well as the ban on political films and videos;
Observing that Singapore has yet to ratify the United Nation's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);
Regretting that one of the objectives of the IBA's Rule of Law Symposium on 19 October 2007 is to give participants 'a clear understanding of the Asian perspective of the Rule of Law.'
NOW THEREFORE THAT WE, the undersigned, call on the IBA to:
Express its concern at the abuse of human rights by the Singapore government and the lack of respect for the rule of law in Singapore;
Urge the Singapore government to practice the rule of law and not the rule by law by signing and ratifying the ICCPR;
Call on the Singapore government to respect the universality of human rights as en-shrined in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Meet with Singaporean dissidents and victims of the Singapore Government's human rights violations and invite them to speak at the Rule of Law Symposium.
Reject the notion of the 'Asian perspective' of the Rule of Law and reaffirm its commitment to the universal concept of the Rule of Law.
Inform its members of the human rights situation in Singapore by posting this resolution on its website.
Mr Carl Gershman President National Endowment for Democracy www.ned.org
Ms Ayo Obe Member (Nigeria) and Chair, Steering Committee World Movement for Democracy www.wmd.org
Mr Richard Rowson President Council for Community of Democracies www.ccd21.org
Liberal International calls for international support for Burmese monks
Lord Alderdice, President of Liberal International, has called for a swift international response to the current pressing situation in Burma resulting from the ongoing strike of members of the Buddhist Sangha in Yangon.
Lord Alderdice said:
'The goal of this strike is to pray for religious freedom and to urge Burma's State Peace and Development Council regime to resolve the terrible food, clothing, shelter, health, and general problems of the people of Burma. The appeal of the monks of Burma is embodied in human dignity and against the plight of the people and the restriction on freedom of speech and religion, and their protest receives Liberal International's strongest support.
I would appeal to the United Nations Security Council and the UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon to respond to this dignified appeal on behalf of the people in Burma and to take steps to put further pressure on the military junta to resolve the grave situation in the country. This new opportunity for change must not be allowed to slip past. We must continue to press for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, a move which would provide a 'Nelson Mandela moment' for Burma, and would herald the move to democracy that its long-suffering people so long to see.'
Aung San Suu Kyi, the recipient of Liberal International's Prize for Freedom in 1995, has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years, proving the living proof that Burma's military junta has consistently neglected the voice of the people in Burma. Since August 21st, hundreds of activists have been arrested. The prominent pro-democracy activist Min Ko Naing, the leader of 1988 Generation Student movement, being one of the new detainees.
Lord Alderdice, President of Liberal International (LI), has said that he is “saddened” by the decision of the United Nations ECOSOC Council to withdraw the special consultative status of Liberal International for one year. The suspension, adopted in the General Segment of the ECOSOC Council in Geneva on Friday, July 20, followed a complaint from China that LI had allegedly breached the UN Charter at the March 29, 2007 Human Rights Council.
Lord Alderdice: “It will be no surprise that Liberal International is saddened by the 12 month withdrawal of special UN consultative status, but we do appreciate the constructive nature of our negotiations with China which ensured that this withdrawal was not permanent, as initially proposed by the NGO Committee. LI regrets the unusual nature of the proceedings at the Human Rights Council in March, and takes its responsibility for preventing a repetition in the future. We fully appreciate the sensitive nature of the status of Taiwan, and we have not questioned the territorial integrity and diplomatic status of the People's Republic of China as stated in UN Resolution 2758. We are disappointed that a member of the LI delegation was unable to speak freely within the United Nations without severe repercussion. The delegate's statement did not include any call for independence of Taiwan, and LI had regarded the question of the admission of Taiwan to the World Health Organisation in the same spirit as Taiwan having received entry into the World Trade Organisation. We would emphasize that LI fully respects and supports the Charter of the UN, an institution whose purpose is to work for peace and further human rights and the freedom of speech, and we trust that next year we will be able to return to playing a small role in these great human commitments.”
DAW AUNG SAN SUU KYI'S BIRTHDAY and WOMEN of BURMA DAY
Dear Aung San Suu Kyi,
On behalf of Liberal International, the international political family of liberals and democrats, I want to extend my heartfelt good wishes on the occasion of your 62nd birthday on June 19, Women of Burma Day. LI would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our support and solidarity to you and with the people of Burma. You may recall that in 1995 we presented you with Liberal International's Prize for Freedom. Since then you have constantly been in our minds and hearts.
Your life-long commitment to democracy for the people of Burma and your unwavering leadership for the forces of democracy and freedom continue to give hope to your people and all those of us around the world who have at heart the welfare of Burma and its people and especially its women who suffer so much from violence and sexual violations.
We call again on the military junta to release you and the other 1500 political prisoners across Burma immediately and unconditionally, and to start negotiations with pro-democracy activists for a constitution that leads to democracy for all the citizens of Burma. Meantime, we remain with you for as long as it takes.
Crossing the Borders of Power - The Memoirs of Colin Eglin
"One of the architects of our democracy" - Nelson Mandela
Colin Eglin, one of the founders of the Africa Liberal Network and patron of Liberal International, was at the frontline of the making of South African history for the second half of the 20th Century. In Crossing the Borders of Power, he recalls an active life well lived; from childhood in South Africa to fighting his way through Italy in the Second World War. Then to fighting his corner in Parliament- from which he provides a perspective of searching insights into South African politics and politicians during the most dramatic and traumatic half-century in the history of the country.
Colin Eglin Served in parliament through the terms of seven prime ministers and presidents from JG Strijdom to Thabo Mbeki and under five constitutions, from the Union constitution to the constitution of 1996, to which he made a huge contribution.
These meticulous memoirs set out, for the first time, the full story of the Progressive movement: the golden thread of liberal opposition that began with the founding of the Progressive Party in 1959, and functioned not only as the official opposition, for many years under Eglin's principled leadership, but as the outspoken conscience of the country when moral government in South Africa seemed an impossible dream.
Colin Eglin was named by Leadership magazine as the parliamentarian of the century. His story provides searching personal insights into the major actors in South African politics during the second half of the 20th century, into the intricacies of party politics and parliamentary life, and into the tensions and the triumphs of the constitutional negotiations. He reflects on a lifetime of service to his country and to the cause for which he worked and fought with patience, courage and relentless determination.
On behalf of Liberal International, I write to register my total condemnation of the recent assault, by your security forces, on the innocent civilians, clergy, civic leaders and youth who gathered for a prayer vigil on 11 March 2007. The way your government reacted to this peaceful gathering was utterly brutal, malicious and totally unwarranted.
Mr. President, the turmoil on 11 March 2007, was about Zimbabwean's demand for freedom: to gather, pray and march in solidarity and peace. But instead the day witnessed a member of the Movement for Democratic Change, Gift Tandare, shot and killed in cold blood, by your security forces. Many were beaten, arrested and are currently under your custody.
Mr. President, this was certainly reminiscent of former South Africa in its struggle against the malevolence apartheid regime, when protests were met with sadistic force, civic leaders arrested, tortured and often killed because they demanded their right for freedom.
Mr. President, this new wave of utter disregard for human life and the continued violation of human rights in Zimbabwe cannot go on. Those that are detained by your security agents must be given access to their lawyers and medical treatment. The leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mr. Tsvangirai along with the many others detained with him must be released unconditionally and be protected from harm. Their lives are now squarely in your hands, and you and your government will be held responsible for their safety. The world is watching.
"The world must no longer sit and watch as children die of starvation, women are raped, and men are systematically executed by rebels and government forces who have been emboldened by the world's lack of political will and courage to act on the words uttered over Rwanda, 'Never Again'." --Lord Alderdice
Liberal International President, Lord Alderdice, has expressed deep dismay at the continued political abuse of power by the Singapore government in its treatment of fellow Liberal Dr Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party, who has been bankrupted through a policy of abuse of the courts to quell legitimate freedom of speech and criticism of the Government.
Lord Alderdice said: ‘This policy, which has also affected other opposition politicians in Singapore and prevented them from communicating actively with colleagues, is intended to intimidate into silence all criticism of an increasingly authoritarian government. Dr Chee has not even been allowed his own choice of lawyer and was not permitted to use the services of Mr Martin Lee QC, an internationally recognised legal authority.
On behalf of the Executive of Liberal International, I urge the Singapore Government to stop these practices of limiting, intimidating and undermining democratic opposition through abuse of the legal system and instead to ensure that Singapore lives up to international standards of justice and democracy.'
Lord Alderdice urged LI member parties and parliamentarians to continue to exert pressure on the Singapore Government by seeking further information on the actions against Dr Chee and his colleagues, by exposing the abuse of the judicial system in Singapore and by doing all possible through their own governments and parliaments as well as international organisations to ensure that Singapore lives up to international standards of justice and democracy.
Following concerns raised at the 23 June 2006 meeting of the Liberal International Executive Committee in Manila, LI President Lord Alderdice made a plea for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the government of Sri Lanka to return to the Talks Table, setting violence to the side.
Lord Alderdice stated: ‘We all looked with hope to the ceasefire in Sri Lanka and the long awaited resumption of Talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE in February 2006. It was therefore with deep dismay that we heard that the LTTE had found it necessary to withdraw from the Talks having travelled the whole way to Oslo.
We are also deeply worried by the recent escalation of violence, including the blowing up of a bus in mid June that took the lives of 64 civilians and also the recent attacks on senior army commanders and on the Sri Lankan ship carrying troops for vacation along with Scandinavian members of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission. Liberal International does not accept the proposition that the EU ban on LTTE should result in all Scandinavian nationals from EU states being excluded from participation in the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission. Instead we plead with the LTTE to return to the Talks Table, we urge the Government of Sri Lanka to exhibit all possible restraint in responding to violent actions from whatever source, and encourage both sides to intensify the Talks Process.
I know from my own experience in Northern Ireland and elsewhere how easy it is to make such a call and just how difficult it is to make a Peace Process work but we want people in all sections of the communities in Sri Lanka to appreciate our genuine concern and to know that Liberal International does not stand in support of one side or the other but rather wants to see violence set to the side permanently in Sri Lanka in favour of a negotiated solution to the problem, based on democracy, pluralism and a commitment to international standards of human rights for all the people of Sri Lanka.'
Lord Alderdice, President of Liberal International, has deplored the arrests and intimidation of opposition leaders and the restrictions on international election monitors in Belarus in the run up to the Presidential elections on 19 March. Presidential candidate, Aleksandr Kazulin, and opposition leaders Anatoly Lebedko and Vintsuk Vyachorka are amongst those who have been arrested.
A group of accredited election monitors from the OSCE have been refused entry visas, and some members of the ‘Support Initiative for Liberals in the Baltic States' (SILBA), a Danish NGO, were arrested and expelled from Belarus when they attempted to observe the early voting which started on 14 March.
Lord Alderdice stated that, 'Persecution and suppression of political opposition is incompatible with democracy. Election monitors are trying to ensure that this election is free and fair. Unfortunately, it appears that instead it will be marked by the same undemocratic abuses that characterise daily life for the people of Belarus under the current administration.'
Liberal International urges the EU to follow through with its threatened imposition of sanctions on Belarus if it becomes clear that the March presidential elections will not meet international election standards. Liberal International further calls upon its Member parties to apply pressure on the government of Belarus so that election monitors are able to work free from arrest and intimidation in the interests of the democratic rights of the people of Belarus.
The European Liberal Democrats will celebrate their 30th anniversary in Stuttgart, Germany, on 17 March 2006. This event will include a conference on the role of the regions in the EU and an anniversary ceremony during which high level speakers (Prime Ministers, Commissioners, Party leaders, MEPs, etc) will express their thoughts on the way forward for the European Union and European liberalism in the 21st Century. 30 years ago, nine parties sharing the European Liberal Democrat values gathered in Stuttgart to create the European federation of liberal parties and adopted the Stuttgart Declaration.
Liberal International extends its appreciation to His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni for granting royal pardons to Mr. Sam Rainsy and Mr. Cheam Channy.
We are grateful for the safe return of Mr. Sam, leader of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), to Cambodia after his year-long exile in France. We also welcome the release of Mr. Cheam after his year of incarceration in the Phnom Penh jail.
Mr. Sam, Mr. Cheam and their fellow parliamentarian Mr. Chea Poch, had their parliamentary immunity removed in February 2005 by the Cambodian National Assembly for allegedly defaming the leaders of the governing coalition. Lord Alderdice, President of Liberal International, emphasized that he hoped that “these positive reconciliations are the first step towards the immediate and unconditional restoration of parliamentary immunity for Mr. Rainsy, Mr. Cheam and Mr. Chea”.
Liberal International welcomes and encourages constructive dialogue between all political leaders, which as Lord Alderdice stated,” is a path towards political stability, social development and economic growth in Cambodia”.
Lord Alderdice, President of Liberal International, in addressing the Lebanese Parliament:
“People often turn to violence when they feel humiliated and disrespected. Of course we must properly condemn the dangerous and terrible violence which took place in this beautiful city just yesterday with the burning of the Danish Embassy, but one must also say that freedom of expression is not only a fundamental right, but also a profound responsibility and one which must be conducted with respect for each other”