Lee Kuan Yew as Commonwealth statesman

By Dr Ruth Craggs, lecturer in human geography, King’s College London. Politicians and diplomats from around the world have begun to offer tributes this week as it was announced that Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew died on Monday, 23 March 2015. Lee led the People’s Action Party from 1959 and governed Singapore for three decades, overseeing independence from Britain as part of the Federation of Malaya in 1963 and then Singapore’s split from the Federation to become an independent city-state in 1965. Lee was known for masterminding Singapore’s impressive economic growth, and sometimes criticised for the tight political and social control he exerted domestically. In the same year that Singapore separated from the Federation of Malaya, the new island country joined the Commonwealth. An Evening Standard report on the 1965 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Meeting commented that, ‘The man who seemed to have created the biggest impression…is Singapore’s Mr Lee Kuan Yew. His quick brain makes him a match for Mr [Harold] Wilson any day.’ (Cited in Josey, 2013: 337) Lee was one of a generation of independence leaders who dominated the Commonwealth from the 1960s into the 1980s and early 1990s. Alongside others such as Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Lee was regarded as one of the organisation’s ‘giants’ and was a regular presence at Commonwealth summits over several decades. In 1971, Lee’s Singapore hosted the first regular Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held outside of London. This conference was symbolic of how the Commonwealth was changing as an institution, moving from a UK-centric organisation to a post-colonial, multipolar association....

Malcolm Fraser: a giant of the Commonwealth

By Dr Sue Onslow, senior research fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies. On 27 March 2015, Australians gathered to pay their respects to former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser in a state funeral following the politician’s death late last week. As Singaporeans prepare to do the same for Lee Kuan Yew, who died on Monday, the Commonwealth can reflect on the contribution of these two ‘giants’ to its modern history. Whereas Lee Kuan Yew was somewhat ambivalent about the Commonwealth as a diplomatic actor, Malcolm Fraser had no such reservations. Fraser was a committed and extremely active Commonwealth politician and leader both in and out of office – indeed, possibly the most committed Australian Prime Minister of the modern Commonwealth. In his reflections for the ICwS Oral History Project, Australian politician Tony Eggleton recalls that Malcolm did not take long to make an impact and to win the support and respect of Commonwealth prime ministers, and not least those from the developing world. Michael Manley was among those who was pleasantly surprised at Malcolm’s constructive views about Commonwealth members, big and small. Fraser worked closely with Manley of Jamaica and Secretary General Shridath Ramphal to promote economic development and west/south cooperation. Determined to use the Commonwealth as a platform to promote Australia’s national interests and international standing, by the late 1970s, Fraser was running ‘hot and strong’ on the Commonwealth. He was widely regarded as a formidable character with clear goals, and was often impatient for positive results. For more on this dimension of Fraser’s career, see the linked interview with Australian diplomat and Commonwealth authority Hugh Craft. Liberal, progressive and a conviction politician in his opposition to racism in all its forms, Fraser took a particularly...

Fracking protesters accuse police of intimidation campaign

Republished from From time to time members of the School of Advanced Study  publish about their research on other websites. This post republishes that work from the original article. By Dr Damien Short and Jessica Elliot Although only a small area of land has been offered to companies exploring the potential for fracking in the UK so far, much more is likely to come. But opposition to fracking is growing – and growing fast. More than 180 local groups are already in operation, which is somewhat inconvenient for a government wanting to go ‘all out for shale‘. In interviews, online surveys and correspondence with anti-fracking protesters, we’ve heard personal testimony that suggests that problems with fracking are not simply environmental. More than 400 peaceful protesters have been arrested – and people in the anti-fracking movement have claimed political policing and intimidation are being used, citing the actions of the Greater Manchester Police and Sussex Police at these two locations as particular examples. Our analysis of interview and questionnaire data suggests that protesters consider their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, liberty and security of person, a fair trial and respect for a private and family life, have been threatened. Each of these rights is protected by the Human Rights Act, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – all of which the UK is legally bound to observe. A report launched on October 30 from the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation details the UK’s human rights commitments and calls for a fully independent human rights impact assessment of fracking developments...
Death Is the Ultimate Intimacy: Asa Cusack on why the Media Were Wrong to Show Video of Charlie Hebdo Policeman Ahmed Merabet’s Murder

Death Is the Ultimate Intimacy: Asa Cusack on why the Media Were Wrong to Show Video of Charlie Hebdo Policeman Ahmed Merabet’s Murder

With media outlets looking for a new angle on the French attacks, Dr Cusack’s thoughtful piece on the ethics involved in representing violent deaths in the news seem to have struck a chord. At least 9 publications have reproduced quotes from ‘Death is the ultimate intimacy’, which was written for Huffington Post.   In the article Dr Cusack, a stipendiary fellow at the Institute of Latin American Studies, gives his views on the publication online of a video showing the moment French officer Ahmed Merabet was shot in cold blood by the Charlie Hebdo killers. He argues that although on one level, he believes ‘people need to be faced with brutal realities in order to make informed decisions about condemning or condoning them’, he ‘did not choose to witness Ahmed Merabet’s murder. It was shown to me’. Dr Cusack explained that although Ahmed Merabet’s death is not the first he has witnessed on screen, it has troubled him in ways that other deaths have not. He said: ‘Warnings of “distressing scenes” have it backwards. This is not about us as viewers. It’s about him as a human being.’  And in his opinion, the media should not have shown the video, because it ‘demonstrates a man diminished’ and has stripped him of his dignity. To balance his argument, Dr Cusack highlighted another public death – that of Peter Smedley in Terry Pratchett’s 2012 Choosing to Die documentary on euthanasia. The difference between the two videos said Dr Cusack is, ‘Rather than being diminished by a lack of control, Peter is ennobled by the defiance of nature’s arbitrary cruelty that is inherent...

Gangs: the real ‘humanitarian crisis’ driving Central American children to the US

Republished from     From time to time members of the School of Advanced Study publish about their research on other websites. This post republishes that work from the original article. By David James Cantor, School of Advanced Study (Refugee Law Initiative) The spectacular arrival of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children at the southern frontier of the US over the last three years has provoked a frenzied response. President Obama calls the situation a ‘humanitarian crisis’ on the US’s borders. News interviews with these vulnerable children appear almost daily in the global news media alongside official pronouncements by the US government on how it intends to stem this flow of migrants. But what is not yet recognised is that these children represent only the tip of the iceberg of a deeper new humanitarian crisis in the region. Of course, recent figures for unaccompanied children (UAC) arriving in the US from the three countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are alarming. Apprehensions of unaccompanied children from these countries rose from about 3,000-4,000 per year to 10,000 in the 2012 financial year and then doubled again in the same period in 2013 to 20,000. But it’s important to pull back and look at the bigger picture, which is that there has been a steep increase in border guard apprehensions of nationals from the three Northern Triangle countries – not just unaccompanied children, but adults and families as well. The unaccompanied children we’ve been hearing so much about are not exceptional but represent just one strand (albeit a more photogenic and newsworthy strand) of a broader –...

Is religion a consolation worth having?

Republished from By Professor Simon Blackburn (University of Cambridge) My idea of bliss is a Sunday walk that takes in first some English countryside, and second a pleasant medieval church, with some glass or woodwork or monuments. I once even wrote a piece, published in the Larkin journal, about his poem ‘An Arundel Tomb‘, having done a little research on early 14th-century alabaster monuments and particularly the rare but lovely examples in which a knight and his lady are shown holding hands. I have no religious beliefs – but I care about our culture, and its past and the transmission of its past, and those things were intimately bound up with religious language, music, architecture and attitudes to life and death. I dare say that even when I indulge these tastes my feelings fall short of being religious. If gratitude is among those feelings, it is because I am grateful to the men and women who created the countryside, or built the churches, or decorated them or wrote about them. If a feeling of consolation comes over me, as it may well do, it is because I find it consoling to think of the rolling centuries during which quiet lives were spent building the landscape and its glories. My thoughts do not fly up further than that, and to tell the truth I am rather suspicious of those people who claim theirs do. I like the saying that religions are like public swimming pools – most noise comes from the shallow end. If I were to claim affinity with a religious tradition, it would be the apophatic tradition, the...

World War II began 75 years ago with censorship chaos that echoes down the decades

From time to time members of the School of Advanced Study publish about their research on other websites. This post republishes that work from the original article. Republished from     By Henry Irving, School of Advanced Study (Institute of English Studies) At approximately 1.30 am in the night of September 11 1939 two police officers walked into the offices of the Daily Mail with instructions to seize all of its early editions. This action was repeated at newspaper offices and wholesale newsagents across the United Kingdom. A road block was set up in Fleet Street, trains from London were stopped, and members of the public had newspapers confiscated. The war had begun eight days earlier. And this chaotic situation 12 hours earlier. At midday on 11 September, an official radio broadcast in Paris had wrongly announced that British troops were engaged in offensive action against Nazi forces. The whereabouts of British troops had been kept strictly secret since the beginning of the war. So the announcement led to serious discussions within the British government. The Ministry of Information believed that there was little point suppressing a story which had already broken. The fact that reports of the broadcast had been picked up in the United States suggested that they would also have made their way into enemy hands. It was eventually agreed that the government should confirm the arrival of British troops in France. But the War Office remained wary that more important information might be accidentally disclosed. It became even more worried when government censors began to receive colourful stories about troops being welcomed with flowers and...

Chávez vs UKIP? How Latin America has reinvigorated the European left

Radical left parties, Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain, did well in the recent European elections. But how far can they go? And what are the lessons for the UK? Republished from     From time to time members of the School of Advanced Study  publish about their research on other websites. This post republishes that work from the original article. The numbers speak for themselves. Though currently in opposition, both its plurality in European elections and recent polling  suggest that Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) will soon become Greece’s largest political force. Only founded in March, Spain’s Podemos (We Can) took five seats and 8 per cent of the vote in May’s European elections.  Its support now stands at 15 per cent, compared to 25 per cent apiece for the traditional parties. How did both manage it? Surprisingly, the answer is by emulating the Latin American left. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has undertaken numerous fact-finding missions to Venezuela over the past decade and considers Hugo Chávez a personal hero. Podemos, meanwhile, was established by a group of longstanding advisors to the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, all based at Madrid’s Universidad Complutense. So central has their experience been that Podemos cite ‘thorough analysis and learning of recent Latin American processes’ as one cornerstone of their approach. The parallels are indeed striking. Both Syriza and Podemos propose an eye-catching audit of public debt and renegotiation of any portion deemed illegitimate, the same means by which Rafael Correa achieved a 65 per cent haircut on US$3 billion of Ecuadorian bonds. Both would renationalise public services and ‘strategic’ industries, moves central to the reinvigoration of the state...

National Gallery bid to set stage doesn’t quite build full picture

Republished from     From time to time members of the School of Advanced Study publish about their research on other websites. This post republishes that work from the original article. By Rembrandt Duits, School of Advanced Study (The Warburg Institute)   A painting is often like theatre. There are actors, who give expression to a narrative. They are distributed across a stage floor and positioned against a scenic backdrop. The artist is both the stage director and the set designer, choreographing the movements and gestures of his leads and extras, as well as choosing their props and painting the background screen. Such a theatrical approach to painting – something perhaps even inspired by genuine theatre – may have existed in classical antiquity, judging by some of the surviving frescoes from Pompeii. But it certainly came to life during the period that styled itself as the revival of ancient Greek and Roman culture – the Renaissance. The National Gallery in London has now staged a show that explores an aspect of this role of the painter as a set designer. The exhibition, aptly titled Building the Picture, focuses on paintings from the Italian Renaissance that include forms of architecture in their setting – from porticos and arches to churches and palaces, sometimes entire townscapes. The exhibition has opened concurrent with the major National Gallery shows on Veronese and German Renaissance painting, both still running. Visitors lured to the museum by these blockbusters will hopefully also reserve some time to walk through this smaller thematic display, accessible for free in the Sunley Room at the centre of the gallery. But I’d recommended...