Monday, 29 September 2014


While the eyes of the world have been distracted by events in Hong Kong, eastern Ukraine and the Middle East, Russia has continued to apply pressure to the Crimean Tartar minority in the Crimea. There have been documented attacks on Tartar leaders, on-going harassment, raids on houses and flats have taken place; records and documents have been taken and passports confiscated and libraries have been shut down.
Nadir Bekir (pictured here in 2013) says four masked men pulled him from his
car, forced him to the ground, and took his Ukrainian passport and mobile phone.
Crimean Tatar Scholar Attacked, Library Shut As Pressure Mounts
SIMFEROPOL, Crimea -- A Crimean Tatar scholar says masked assailants dragged him from his car and took his passport in an attack meant to prevent him from attending a UN conference in New York.
The attack on Nadir Bekir late on September 18 came hours after Russian authorities moved to seize the Crimean Tatar assembly, the Mejlis, piling pressure on the Turkic-speaking Muslim minority group that largely opposed Moscow's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine.
On September 19, the main Crimean Tatar library in the regional capital, Simferopol, announced that it is being shut down in accordance with an August government resolution to replace libraries on the peninsula with Russian state entities. 
Bekir, an expert on indigenous peoples, told RFE/RL he was attacked on his way from Simferopol to the city of Dzhankoi, where he planned to board a train for Kyiv and then fly to New York.
He said a white minibus abruptly blocked his car on the highway. Four masked men emerged, pulled him from his car, forced him to the ground, and took his Ukrainian passport and mobile phone. He said one of the attackers opened his passport and told the others: "Yes, that 's him!"
Without his passport, Bekir said he cannot leave Crimea. He believes the attack was meant to prevent him from participating in the September 22-23 UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, part of the UN General Assembly. 
Russian President Vladimir Putin promised that the rights of Crimean Tatars would be protected after Moscow annexed the region in March, a move opposed by most Crimean Tatars and denounced as illegitimate by Ukraine, the European Union, and the United States.
But tension quickly mounted and pressure on the Crimean Tatars intensified after most members of the Turkic-speaking minority group, which makes up about 12 percent of the peninsula's population, boycotted local elections on September 14.
Police confiscated records of the Crimean Tatar's Mejlis as well as religious books, computers, and
personal belongings of long-time Crimean Tatar leader and Ukrainian lawmaker Mustafa Dzhemilev.
Houses and apartments of leading members of the Crimean Tatar community, as well as the Mejlis offices, were searched by police and unidentified masked, armed men on September 16-17.  
In the Mejlis, police confiscated records of the Crimean Tatar self-governing body's sessions as well as religious books, computers, and personal belongings of long-time Crimean Tatar leader and Ukrainian lawmaker Mustafa Dzhemilev.
Dzhemilev is a well-known Soviet-era human rights activist who served six sentences in Soviet prison camps from 1966 to 1986.
Earlier this year, Russian authorities barred Dzhemilev and the chairman of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov, from entering Crimea, saying their activities "incite interethnic hatred."
The pressure on Crimean Tatars is a source of particular bitterness because the community was deported en masse to Central Asia in 1944 by the authorities under Josef Stalin, who accused them of collaborating with Nazi Germany.
Many of the 200,000 deportees died on their way into exile.
Many Crimean Tatars returned to Crimea in the years before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and there have been frequent disputes over land and property on the peninsula, which are aggravated by ethnic differences between the Crimean Tatars and the Slavic population.
After Russia annexed Crimea, Putin publicly said that the rights of Crimean Tatars will be fully protected by Russian laws and signed a decree on the rehabilitation of peoples deported from Crimea in the 1940s. 
But in May, the United Nations voiced concern about what it called the "serious problems" of harassment and persecution of Crimean Tatars since the annexation.
By RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service and RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 19.09.2014 11:30

Sunday, 28 September 2014


As the nights darken as winter draws in, then we look back to survey the events of the year with more of a sense of detachment. There was perhaps more than a faint whiff of after the fact vindictiveness about it the decision to remove Fred (Fred the Shred) Goodwin's knighthood, perhaps the real question, which will probably remain unanswered, is why did he ever get it in the first place? The ‘Brit’ obsession with the distribution and receipt of gongs, knighthoods, baubles and other gaudy trinkets is decidedly unhealthy and distasteful. Certainly during the recent referendum campaign in Scotland, I could but not help notice that some of the recipients of honours were pretty quick to attempt to present a fairly doomed future for an independent Scotland. Dancing perhaps when the piper calls the tune, almost certainly. Nominally dispatched from the reigning monarch, honours, including peerages are actually the gift of the ruling PM rather than the reigning monarch (although when Tony Blair was in charge it might have been difficult to tell the difference). I suspect that those business leaders and bankers with knighthoods, CBEs, etc will not be having sleepless nights worrying about having their honours stripped from them. Not at least as long as their misdemeanours, party donations and other dubious acts commissioned in the hope of a bauble from on high remain out of sight and public scrutiny.

Friday, 26 September 2014


Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales has urged a region-led response to the crisis in Iraq, confirming that its MPs will not support the UK Westminster government’s intention to launch air strikes against ISIL. Hywel Williams MP, outlining the reasons behind his party’s intention to vote against the government motion put before the Commons today said:

"Human suffering in Iraq and Syria has prompted an overwhelming desire to "do something". However, Plaid Cymru does not believe that UK military action of itself will provide a full and lasting solution. That can only be achieved by a region-led response backed by UN-led international support.

"Last year, the UK government was proposing military action against the Syrian government. One of the opposition groups which would have benefited is ISIL.

"We believe that air strikes will almost certainly result in civilian deaths - as in the case of every other recent Western military intervention in the region and in Afghanistan - and radicalise the young and impressionable.

"It is disturbing that the Prime Minister has said that we must not allow "past mistakes" to become an excuse for inaction. The shadow of the Iraq war still looms large - surely we should be learning from history, not forgetting it.

"Plaid Cymru supports providing Iraqi and Kurdish government with humanitarian, technical and material assistance, when civilian lives are in immediate danger. This will enable them to protect their population and achieve a lasting solution.

"The UK's response to this crisis must focus on humanitarian and diplomatic efforts. We should concentrate on delivering aid, bringing moderate regional powers together, and offering to take refugees as the number fleeing their homes rises at a rapid rate."

Sunday, 21 September 2014


Despite the platitudes and back slapping from the pro Union Westminster based politicians in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum, in their heart of hearts they must be aware of a number of important developments that no amount of spin can conceal. Firstly, they got away with it by the skin of their teeth and despite the wall of ‘No’ focused negativity and sentimental hogwash in the media (state owned and non state owned) some 45% of Scottish voters actually dared to chose to vote for independence.
Secondly it is a great deal easier to move from 45% to 51% than it is to go from a lower figure. Thirdly having got away with it this time, it will be much harder to get away with it next time around. Lastly, when Westminster fails to rapidly deliver the weighty but hastily promises made to the Scots in the last few weeks of the campaign (in an effort to firm up the no vote) then that democratic 55% figure of those who voted no may well begin to crumble away rather rapidly.
The Union that existed before the 18th September is no more, it is history; all of us are now living in a very different state from the one we were living in before the vote. The dynamic has changed, and not just for Scotland but for the rest of the inhabitants of these isles, especially here in Wales. For too long, we have tolerated a second rate devolutionary settlement, one that has made if difficult to deliver real change and significant economic and infrastructure improvements for our people.
The combination of an increasingly inert Labour in Wales governmental party, who don’t want the tools to do the job, but merely to occupy the seat of power to prevent anyone else doing anything with it, was barely acceptable during the age of devolution. The problem is that we are no longer living in the age of devolution; devolution as was is old hat, as we are living in the age of transition, an age of self-government.
I am not unionist, I never have been, I probably read enough history and seen enough to understand that the much vaunted Union is not delivering for increasing numbers of people across these isles.  It meant (and means) different things to different people in different places, for one thing Wales, is not a region of England, we are one of number of nations and peoples within these islands.
Wales (and the our people) need parity with the Scots (and Scotland) otherwise we will continue to be treated as a second rate nation and lack the tools to do the economic jobs that need doing. The old cosy status quo is gone; the UK has changed for good. It’s time for Wales to stop continually having to play catch up.
The Wales Bill needs to be radically written, to take account of the many promises that have been made to Scotland. It is important that Wales is not side-lined from the hopefully soon to start process of transferring power Scotland will be offered new powers and that a fast-tracked timetable for introducing the necessary legislation has been unveiled. 
Any new Scotland Bill will pass through the Westminster Parliament pretty much side by side with the current Wales Bill. It would be entirely unacceptable for MPs to vote through substantial powers for Scotland while voting through an inadequate second-rate bill for Wales.  The sluggish, piecemeal, incremental changes that have trickled down to Wales, as and when Westminster felt something was necessary have produced an unsatisfactory outcome for our nation and our people.

Friday, 12 September 2014


Plaid Cymru has unveiled its first signature policy for the 2015 General Election Campaign - a Living Wage that would secure a pay rise for more than 250,000 Welsh workers. A Living Wage would improve living standards, help create jobs, and boost local economies due to people having more money in their pockets to spend. 

The policy was just one of many Plaid Cymru proposals to help businesses and employers alike such as cutting VAT in the tourism sector, offering SMEs lower business rates, and developing a Welsh Bank to lend to small business. 

Hywel Williams MP, Plaid Social Security spokesperson speaking ahead of the policy launch said:

"Plaid Cymru believes that nobody in Wales should be paid less than they need to live upon. That is why we pledge to give more than 250,000 Welsh workers a pay rise by making the Living Wage a key commitment for the 2015 General Election campaign. 

"In a time when City fat cats are rewarded for failure, and ordinary families are suffering a slump in living standards, this is a policy aimed at tackling the UK's "most unequal state in Europe" status. 

"Currently the UK Government subsidises big business to pay poverty wages by setting the minimum wage too low and then topping them up with tax credits to enable people to afford basic provisions. 

"By raising the minimum wage to be in line with the Living Wage, we will be able to raise living standards and boost local economies as people will have more money in their pockets to spend. 

"Analysis shows that it is more commonly women, the under 30s and part-time workers who suffer most from low wages. A Living Wage would ensure that none of these groups are left behind and improve the lot of entire households, not just individuals. 

"This is just one of a wide range of Plaid Cymru policies designed to help employers and workers alike. These include cutting VAT for the tourism industry, cutting business rates for SMEs, and establishing a Bank of Wales that would lend to small businesses. 

"While Labour, Tories and Lib Dems join in the desperate scramble to save the Union and putting Wales' best interests on the back burner yet again, Plaid Cymru is getting on with the job of delivering a more just and prosperous Welsh nation."

Thursday, 11 September 2014


He's back...
Back on the 13th June 2013 I wondered whether of not we had seen the last of Leighton Andrews AM, former Education Minister, who was sacked for opposing his own governments policy? I thought probably not, as the pool of talent (and I used the term very loosely) in Labour in Wales obviously left a great deal to be desired. Sadly it was an easy win, but, I and no doubt many others predicted that much rather like a pantomime villain or former popular public enemy number one Dr Fu Manchu, we shall hear from him again? Some 18 months or so later he’s back