September 8, 2015
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The sad saga of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is in the news again. But the plethora of global reports have, by their all-encompassing nature, tended to obscure what has actually happened to bring them to the world’s attention once again.
Having written briefly about coronavirus vaccines only last month, I hesitate to return to the subject today. However, this column not only allows me to offer my own views on a range of issues but also provides an opportunity to articulate as best I can the concerns of other people whose voices do not get heard. At this stage of the virus pandemic, people are expressing anxiety about the urgent need for a vaccination programme here in The Bahamas - and it seems this is increasingly seen as the single most important issue facing the country at the moment.
With political confrontation and accompanying violence happening around the world all the time, much of it goes unreported in the international media as other news competes for attention. But events in one place in particular - the Asian nation of Myanmar - are often covered, largely because of its famous politician, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Since writing last week, in the context of Britain’s special relationship with the US, about the UN Climate Change conference - known as COP 26 and to be hosted by the UK in Scotland in November - I have seen reports of another UK climate initiative that was announced on January 25. This is worth covering today because I believe The Bahamas could benefit from it. As everyone knows, an archipelagic nation with its low lying islands is particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change and the threat of rising sea levels from global warming.
After looking briefly last week at world prospects in the coming months under a new US government, two occurrences encourage me to consider what a Biden presidency might mean for Britain. These are the removal of the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and last weekend’s telephone call between President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
IT was a pleasure to receive again this year an invitation to the ceremony to mark the opening of the new Legal Year. This time, because of coronavirus restrictions there was no traditional service at Christ Church Cathedral nor the usual crowded gathering in the Supreme Court to hear addresses by the Attorney General, the Chief Justice and the President of the Bar Association. Instead, there was a “virtual ceremony” held last week out-of-doors in Rawson Square with limited attendance and live television coverage.
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange is back in the news again. Not in the American media, which unsurprisingly remains obsessed with the current drama in Washington, but in the UK from where the US government is seeking his extradition to face charges over the publication of thousands of classified documents in 2010 and 2011.
IN a free society it is axiomatic that authority should be held to account. Criticism of mistakes and failures should be encouraged, if only to prevent them in the future. So, on the thesis that it is the role of the Fourth Estate to scrutinise official policies and actions and to ask the tough questions, I return this week to the vexed issue of the coronavirus vaccine.
WAS it the best Christmas present of all? One would have been forgiven for thinking so while watching Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s exuberant video on Christmas Eve announcing that he had just signed a trade agreement with the European Union. After all the controversy and delay, this is a huge development, covering, as it does, some 450 million consumers.
IN the context of ‘wokeness’, which I wrote about in a recent column, there were two interesting developments in Britain last week. One was a speech by a Cabinet minister about the Conservative values of equality and individual responsibility while the other was a report by a leading think tank about the importance of free speech in universities. These are significant issues in modern society that can affect many people – even indirectly – so they are, perhaps, worth examining further.
THE current negotiations between the EU and Britain about their post-Brexit trading relationship is top of the news agenda in Europe. The deadline for an agreement is the end of the year – barely two weeks away. But, although, after months of talks, the two sides remain divided on several key issues, EU watchers are accustomed to such events going down to the wire before agreement is suddenly reached at the eleventh hour. So, many still hope for a satisfactory conclusion.
A FRIEND has kindly lent me a new book about the business activities of the Sassoon and Kadoorie families in China and Hong Kong during the last century. Entitled “The Last Kings of Shanghai”, it is written by British journalist and author Jonathan Kaufman, and was published earlier this year. Impressively comprehensive and evidently well researched, it is billed as the story of rival Jewish dynasties that helped create modern China.
There seems to be a general view in Britain that the provision of monetary aid directly to other countries is unpopular with the public. During periods of relative national prosperity, that may not manifest itself because overseas aid tends not to be an issue for most people. But, in the midst of today’s coronavirus crisis and consequent economic emergency, it perhaps comes as no surprise that opinion polls show the majority of British people favour a substantial reduction of the nation’s foreign aid budget.
WITH almost the whole world, it seems, focused on the coronavirus pandemic, not least because of the prospect of a vaccine becoming available soon, “wokeness” is not an issue of major concern to most people. But it has come to the fore again in Britain with a group of Tory Members of Parliament speaking out against what they maintain is an attempt to rewrite or denigrate the nation’s history.
Whether or not one agrees with former US President Richard Nixon who said, with supreme irony, that he ‘rejected the cynical view that politics is a dirty business’, there is no denying recent goings-on at the heart of Britain’s political establishment have been dramatic and messy.
While trying to avoid going over old ground again, I hasten to comment about major developments in relation to coronavirus this week in Europe which is in turmoil once more over the pandemic. New national lockdowns in France and in Germany have been followed by an announcement at the weekend of another total lockdown in Britain. This is due to start on Thursday this week and will last for one month in the hope of bringing down the level of transmission of the virus – the so-called R-rate.
NO doubt to the consternation of many, Brexit is back in the news again this week.
ANYONE who had the time and inclination to watch even part of last week’s US Senate confirmation hearings for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, would surely have been impressed by her performance in response to keen questioning. But they might also have been disturbed by the evidence of deep divisions in the American body politic.
PETER YOUNG: Surely it’s time for common sense - targetted solutions not catch-all policies which hurt everyone
HAVING written only two weeks ago about coronavirus, I hesitate to return to the subject. But it is top of the news agenda once more as the situation has changed dramatically with a total curfew over the holiday weekend in New Providence and Abaco followed by other new restrictions this week. I also hasten to draw attention to a potentially significant development in the shape of the Great Barrington Declaration published last week in the US which addresses the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After so many months of endless debate and controversy, some may regard further comment about the COVID-19 pandemic to be superfluous. But what appears to be a second wave of the virus in Europe - resulting in imposition of new restrictions - has reignited argument about the efforts of governments to control its spread.
Since the US mainstream media is understandably preoccupied with the forthcoming presidential election, it has provided little coverage of the recent poisoning of Alexei Navalny, the Russian anti-corruption campaigner and vociferous critic of President Putin. But this attempted assassination has resulted in international outrage. It has been condemned by European countries in particular, and it ought to be publicised more widely.
Watching on Thursday evening last week the concluding proceedings in the grounds of the White House of the four-day Republican National Convention, the hour was late and bedtime called.
Some people consider that so much has been written about the coronavirus pandemic that there is little further to say.
A month ago, I wrote about the thorny and controversial subjects of ‘wokeness’ and the ‘cancel culture’ - and I return to these today because there is growing evidence that people in the UK are fighting back against these strange phenomena, which are loosely defined as demanding adherence to a new orthodoxy about social and political justice together with attacking and ruining the lives of any who do not submit to such demands.
If you mention The Bahamas to people in Britain, there is likely to be a positive reaction because the country is seen as a most desirable tourist destination. Such is the country’s fine reputation, it is no exaggeration to say the name itself seems to carry a certain aura. Last week, however, it hit the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Having written at length last week about its lack of impartiality, I hesitate to return to the subject of the BBC today. Having written at length last week about its lack of impartiality, I hesitate to return to the subject of the BBC today. But it may be worth commenting on what could turn out to be a massive miscalculation on the part of the corporation, since many people depend on Britain’s renowned public broadcaster for reliable information as a trustworthy global news provider and they are interested in how it is faring.
With the latest rise in COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas and re-imposition at the weekend of lockdown measures, I hasten to write briefly about this as well as about the BBC as I had planned. The reason for this spike seems to be linked to Bahamians visiting Florida during the last few weeks and is against the background of a second global wave of the virus.
The issue of the extent of the involvement in Britain of China’s huge telecommunications company, Huawei, has finally come to a head. Last week, citing national security concerns, the UK government banned the tech giant from any role in developing the infrastructure of 5G – the nation’s next generation mobile communications network.
It was wholly predictable that the content of remarks by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at a recent discussion with young leaders from the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust would cause controversy. In a video released last week and distributed around the world, Harry and Meghan - who are respectively president and vice president of this Trust - were seen talking about the Commonwealth in a way many people consider could undermine it.
Forecasting is a tricky business at the best of times.
PETER YOUNG: For the Windrush families it was a scandal which so easily could - and should - have been avoided
In reaction to recent claims that Britain is a racist and unfair society, I argued in this column last week that it was inaccurate to say that the nation was dominated by bigotry and race hatred, as has been maintained by some people. It cannot be plausibly denied, however, that discrimination against minorities exists in one form or another in parts of society, with ethnic minorities affected by economic and social inequality - though claims of systemic institutionalised racism are often unwarranted.
PETER YOUNG: Removing reminders of a country’s past will do nothing to address genuine social injustice
Last week in this column, I covered the issue of criminal vandalism of statues and monuments in Britain and stressed the need for the police to enforce law and order. I return to the subject today because of a more recent development that, in the view of many, has reached a new low of craven submission by authority.
It comes as no surprise that in Britain increasing numbers of people are genuinely shocked that protests in London and other cities about racism and police brutality across the Atlantic have turned into an attack on their own country’s history and culture.
Most people will be thoroughly familiar by now with the circumstances of the death two weeks ago of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis and its violent aftermath. But it is hard to refrain from commenting on this and the subsequent protests both in the US and around the world. The killing of an unarmed and handcuffed Afro-American man already in police custody, with the sickeningly graphic video footage for all to watch, has triggered revulsion around the world.
THE former British colonial territory of Hong Kong has attracted the world’s attention again, but for potentially harmful reasons. Last week, China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, rubber-stamped a sweeping new draft security law to be imposed directly on Hong Kong and its population of over seven million.
People who believe in individual freedom in society and regard themselves instinctively as libertarians normally have an innate distrust of authoritarianism, and, in a democracy, they are on guard against any perceived encroachment by the state on civil liberties.
The recent news that The Bahamas has been included in yet another European Union anti-financial crime blacklist will have been depressingly familiar to many. The subject seems like a never-ending saga in which our nation, as an international financial centre (IFC), is under unremitting pressure from the EU and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to satisfy their forever changing demands.
PETER YOUNG – Stiff upper lips as Britain remembers and vows: we’ll meet again (just not for a little bit)
Last week’s commemorations and celebrations in Britain of the landmark 75th anniversary of VE-Day have been described as a joyous demonstration of national pride. May 8, 1945 marked the end of the Second World War in Europe - and being in the coronavirus lockdown did not stop people paying tribute to those who had saved them from the tyranny of Nazi Germany. In the words of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as he urged his fellow countrymen and women to take inspiration from the generation that had won the war, “We are free because of everything they did”.
As the horror, grief and desperation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues, the need for international co-operation to combat it has become all the more pressing. The World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11. According to its latest figures, the virus has been found so far in as many as 185 countries with some 3.5 million confirmed cases and nearly 250,000 deaths worldwide.
AS the nightmare of the extended lockdown now continues for another month it is amazing to watch - not least in the US and UK - how know-alls purporting to be experts attack their own governments when, more often than not, they have no relevant professional qualifications and little understanding of the pressures facing ministers.
While the COVID-19 crisis continues around the world with a vengeance, just a month ago there was still a widespread feeling it would be short lived. It was thought the strong action taken by different countries to contain the spread of the virus through strict measures about social distancing to prevent its transmission among humans would be effective and the crisis would be rapidly over. But that has proven not to be the case. The world is in this together and the fight goes on.
The complete lockdown in The Bahamas over the last five days may have been regarded by many as excessively heavy-handed. But others have welcomed such tough action in response to the coronavirus crisis on the grounds it is better to enforce social distancing in this way than risk a spread of the virus that could devastate this country’s relatively small population. Many complain, however, the government’s decisions could have been communicated better and with more notice.
Such is the plethora of information in the media about coronavirus, particularly the serious developments in the US which are worsening by the day with a rising death toll, that the facts do not bear repetition.
In writing further about the coronavirus crisis - now being called the greatest ever threat to the world in peacetime - I offer comment this week on the latest developments in Europe, including Britain, and here at home as well. The crisis affecting so many countries has become nothing short of a human catastrophe and the most serious global health challenge of our times. Its effects have also had a horrifying impact on the world economy and have disrupted modern society on an unimaginable scale.
The suggestion last week by English historian and author, Antony Beevor, that mankind may be facing a fundamental turning point over the deadly coronavirus may be regarded by many as a bit over the top – transformative for sure, but such an apocalyptic claim looks to be premature since no one knows with certainty how this crisis is going to develop. The seriousness of COVID-19 so far, with the latest figures showing it has infected more than 350,000 with over 16,000 deaths, makes me keen as a columnist to offer comment once again this week.
My heart sank when I saw the headline ‘Biden and Sanders slam Trump over response to coronavirus crisis’. Then, after tuning in to CNN and MSNBC, who relentlessly vilify President Trump whatever he does, my worst fears were confirmed.
PETER YOUNG: With the world in the grip of hysteria, who knows what the final economic effects might be
So much has been broadcast and written about the coronavirus outbreak that there is a risk of information overload about what has become a global crisis, and any reiteration of existing facts would be superfluous.
The alarming events over the last few days concerning Syrian refugees passing through Turkey in large numbers and trying to enter European Union countries like Greece and Bulgaria hit TV screens over the weekend.
A free man at last. Nelson Mandela was released from prison in South Africa 30 years ago.
It was sad to write in this column last November about the terrorist attack that had taken place on London Bridge. This resulted in the murder of two young people - who were dedicated to the rehabilitation of prisoners - by a convicted Islamist terrorist. The attacker had been released from prison on licence after serving half his sentence and was himself later killed by the police. How depressing it is, so soon after that, to comment now on another similar incident in the British capital just a week ago.
Well, folks, it has actually happened. Britain left the European Union on January 31. This has created enormous attention and extensive international media coverage and there have been huge celebrations in London and elsewhere in the country. It has been described in Britain as the most significant moment in the nation’s modern history.
Having written two weeks ago about the watershed moment of the UK Parliament passing the Withdrawal Bill for Britain’s departure from the European Union, I hesitate to claim there has been yet another significant milestone in the Brexit saga. But this time, finally, it is for real and the goal has been achieved.
To adapt Abraham Lincoln’s famous dictum about not being able to fool all of the people all of the time, it is similarly impossible to please everybody even for some of the time. So to obtain order in the conduct of human affairs, some way has to be found of determining the will of the people. The best means is to consult them and let the majority prevail.
It is surely no exaggeration to say the sudden horror of last week’s killing by a US drone strike of Major General Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top military commander and one of its most influential political figures, has shaken the world.
Writing this column on the eve not only of another year but a new decade as well, it is almost obligatory to reflect on immediate past events as well as to look at prospects for the foreseeable future.
WITH Christmas just a day away, this weekly column allows me the pleasure of writing about the joys of such a wonderful time of the year. But it is also a moment to think about the lonely and less fortunate for whom the celebrations can be a time of woe and pain as they suffer the sadness of loss and deprivation while we are all urged to ‘eat, drink and be merry’ in the traditional way.
Britain’s historic General Election last week turned out to be nothing short of an earthquake that may have changed the political map of the nation for a generation. For the first time, Labour Party supporters in its traditional, working-class heartlands in the North-East and Midlands areas of the country have voted Tory.
SUCH is the US mainstream media’s concentration on domestic issues that the serious terrorist attack which took place at the end of last month on London Bridge in the heart of Britain’s capital may even have escaped some people’s notice altogether.
With election fever in Britain building up towards polling day on December 12, this is perhaps a good moment to reflect on parliamentary relationships of the past compared with the deteriorating quality of modern-day political discourse, group values and affinities.
“Never complain and never explain” is a mantra said to be favoured by The Queen and has been attributed to the late Queen Mother.
As so often, the US media has been obsessed recently with domestic affairs to such an extent that, until this last weekend, foreign issues like the continuing serious civil unrest in Hong Kong have been receiving little coverage.
At this time of year it is a pleasant duty to write about Remembrance Day on November 11 and to note that interest in honouring the casualties of war has not waned over the years.
“There is a widespread view in the country that this Parliament has run its course.” These strong words by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have been finally heeded by his fellow MPs who have voted overwhelmingly that the nation should go to the polls on December 12 – and many ordinary people, who have lost patience with the political class and their outright obstruction of the UK’s departure from the EU that has resulted in disruption and division, say that this will be none too soon.
PETER YOUNG: Imagine a tidal wave of refugees like we saw from Vietnam... North Africa ... Syria - but this time it’s from Haiti
So much has been written recently about the treatment of Haitians post-Dorian that I hesitate to comment further. But criticism of the Government, both here at home as well as overseas, has been growing and this prompts me to address the issue again.
Since the US media tends to concentrate on domestic news and, nowadays, in particular on the behaviour and tribulations of their President, it is hardly surprising that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to Pakistan last week has not attracted much attention this side of the Atlantic. During a jam-packed five-day tour, which was the first royal visit there for a decade, the general view has been that they did not put a foot wrong on what was their own first trip to the country and that overall it was an outstanding success.
LAST week’s controversial exchanges about the treatment of displaced migrants following the destruction by Hurricane Dorian of the shanty towns in Abaco should have come as no surprise. As everyone knows by now, the potentially explosive issue of Haitian immigration to The Bahamas goes back a long way.
IN the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, The Bahamas has received so much aid, assistance and support from such a wide variety of sources, both at home and from overseas, that it would be invidious to single out any particular ones as being more worthy than others.
YESTERDAY’S press reports about the creation, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, of a new ministry to deal with disasters will no doubt be widely welcomed.
OLD habits as a diplomat die hard, so even in retirement I shy away from commenting in this column on domestic politics. However, in the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Dorian perhaps, for once, such self-restraint can be put aside temporarily in offering a view following the publicity last week about the involvement of two former Prime Ministers in dealing with the crisis.
So much has been written already about the catastrophe of Dorian that it is hard to find further words to describe its deadly effects and the horrors inflicted on people in Abaco and Grand Bahama. The destruction and loss of life is almost beyond belief and the extent of the suffering unimaginable. So it is heartening that the worldwide publicity has produced an extraordinarily positive response from other countries and that an international humanitarian aid operation is now under way.
As a final reflection on our lengthy summer visit to England, I was genuinely puzzled by the degree of negativity, particularly in the media, about Britain and its status in the world. According to some, the nation’s standing and influence as a leading global power has suddenly been severely curtailed or even no longer exists. Such a view is often expressed by those who believe the UK’s departure from the European Union is an act of extreme folly and that it will be unable to prosper on its own.
Another fascinating debate being aired during my wife’s and my extended summer visit to England was about the balance between civil liberties and state intervention in people’s lives.
In last week’s column, I surmised that Britain was in for an autumn of political disruption over Brexit. The nation has been overwhelmed by this thorniest of issues that has provoked deep divisions and the resulting uncertainty and instability could become even worse.
An important international development that ought to be publicised but has received only limited US media coverage is the Hong Kong government’s current controversial plan for extradition to mainland China.
It is said the rise of populism is a dangerous phenomenon in world politics. This has come to the forefront again following the heavy losses suffered by the mainstream political parties in last month’s European Parliament poll.
Keeping alive memories of significant events in its history is a mark of a civilised nation. An important aspect of this is public recognition and remembrance of those who lost their lives in war so that honouring their sacrifice should continue for years afterwards.
Having commented briefly in an earlier column about utilising the potential of the Family Islands, I found the recent exchanges in the House of Assembly about the Immigration Bill’s amendments concerning foreign business visitors especially interesting, not least because of the indication of an easing of immigration restrictions.
In today’s world of instant communication via the internet, news of the horrors of the recent evil and cowardly terrorist attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka will have reached far and wide.
Memories of youth seldom fade. I still recall a teacher in my far-off schooldays who seemed more interested in demonstrating his own intellectual prowess than in leading young minds to new ideas and concepts. ‘Liberty or licence’ (see below) was one of his favourite topics for essay-writing, without bothering to explain the difference in advance.
The sudden news of the arrest in London of the co-founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, not surprisingly hit the headlines last week.
Having written in preceding weeks about the thorny issue of Brexit, I turn today to the related subject of parliamentary representative democracy in Britain.
Since Britain’s departure from the European Union is causing political upheaval in a nation divided on the issue, it remains top of the news agenda. So, reluctantly, I am covering Brexit in this column for a third week running. This time, while mentioning the latest developments splashed daily across the British and European media, a brief look at the background that has led to the impasse might be interesting.
While it is essential to vary the content of this column, the massively controversial issue of Brexit is reaching a climax so this is a follow-up to last week’s report on the subject.
For many people in Britain it is mind-boggling that with so little time remaining before the nation is due to leave the European Union on March 29 the terms of its departure have still not secured parliamentary approval.
Press reports of remarks by the Prime Minister in New York last month in praise of the Nassau Accord ought to stimulate renewed interest in the role played by The Bahamas in the eventual ending of apartheid some 25 years ago. This agreement, which called for sanctions against South Africa and demanded it should dismantle apartheid and negotiate with the country’s black majority, was the outcome of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Nassau in 1985 attended by The Queen.
WHILE Britain’s departure from the European Union in March next year is fast approaching, Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is still embroiled in negotiations about the nation’s future economic relationship with the bloc after Brexit – a term now firmly in the modern lexicon.
The decision by Britain to withdraw from the European Union following a referendum in 2016 continues to stimulate endless debate and controversy, not least because of a relatively narrow poll margin of 52 to 48 percent in favour of departure. In a high turnout of some 72 percent, 17.4 million voted to leave.
Since governments are elected under the Westminster system for a five-year period, the Prime Minister is surely right to discourage people from judging him prematurely. Equally, it would be unwise simply to dismiss last month’s opinion poll showing a
New Year crystal-gazing is invariably guesswork and can be hazardous. But, having been asked to provide brief comments on The Bahamas’ prospects for 2018, it was not hard to single out the economy as the issue likely to be of major concern in the coming months.
DURING our lengthy visit to England recently, my wife and I were struck by the extensive coverage in the media of developments related to the European Union.
Following the 20th anniversary of Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China, Peter Young offers a personal view about developments . . .
In the wake of the shock result in the British election, Peter Young looks at what lies ahead for the troubled Prime Minister Theresa May after seeing her majority slashed.
The received wisdom about local council elections in the United Kingdom is that they are normally an opportunity, between general elections, for voters to give the national governing party a good kicking with the result that it usually loses seats at this level.
Theresa May caught people unawares last week by calling a snap election for June. Peter Young explains why another poll is necessary . . .
A random act of terrorism in London last week has brought the issues around multicultural Britain into sharp focus again, Peter Young says . . .
Peter Young finds Britain’s future with Europe top of the agenda after a holiday in England . . .
As the the world’s oldest political association of states looks to be entering a new golden era of prosperity, its relevance is being tested by allegations of corruption and cronyism against its top executive, Peter Young says
The real work negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union starts today with the return of Parliament, says Peter Young . . .
A long overdue report reveals the former British Prime Minister deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in justifying going to war, Peter Young says.
Stay or go? Peter Young examines how the UK’s place in Europe is in the balance before tomorrow’s referendum
The outcome of Britain’s referendum on European Union membership next month is in the balance, says Peter Young . . .
Peter Young argues that saturation coverage of the race to the White House is justified for a nation founded on rebellion.
LAST month marked the tenth anniversary of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s leadership of the ruling Conservative party. Having emerged unexpectedly to take the helm of his party after only five years as a Member of Parliament, he became prime minister in 2010 at the age of 43, assuming charge of the first coalition government in Britain since the Second World War.
The harrowing images of desperate refugees highlight the immigration crisis facing the European Union. Peter Young looks at the problem and its implications for Britain