World Tyrants Will Join The Queen At Taxpayer-Funded Meal
By Uvindu Kurukulasuriya
The Queen has come under criticism for inviting tyrants to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. Last week it was about Middle Eastern monarchs. Swazilanders and Bahrainians joined human rights campaigners in a protest on Friday 18, May outside Buckingham Palace against the invitations to royal dictators from around the world to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee dinner.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has condemned the Queen’s decision to invite “dictator monarchs” to her Diamond Jubilee celebrations this. She will host the royal autocrats for lunch at Windsor Castle and for dinner at Buckingham Palace.
“It is outrageous that the Queen has invited royal tyrants to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. She should not host the monarchs of countries such as Brunei, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and United Arab Emirates. All of them preside over regimes that abuse human rights,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights campaign group, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“Inviting blood-stained despots brings shame to our monarchy and tarnishes the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. It is a kick in the teeth to pro-democracy campaigners and political prisoners in these totalitarian royal regimes. The invitations should be withdrawn immediately, as a mark of respect for those who have been murdered, arrested, jailed and tortured,” he added.
This week a protest was launched against inviting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. “The celebrations will be long, grand and varied, and one of the flagship events will be a private luncheon in London on the 6th of June with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary … and a war criminal…The President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, a man against whom the UN have found credible allegations of responsibility for the murder of civilians, and who leads a government that oversaw the disappearance of 32 people this March alone, will join the Queen and other heads of state at the taxpayer-funded meal. Make sure this doesn’t happen,” the Campaign Director UK based ‘Sri Lanka Campaign’ said.
Giving an interview to this writer he said, “The Queen, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and President Rajapaksa would be in attendance as would other commonwealth heads of state – but we haven’t been told who. Indeed they have made very little information available about this lunch and we have had to find things out the hard way.”
“We also don’t know exactly how much the lunch itself will cost. We have been told that the Jubilee celebrations will cost a total of around £12 million to the taxpayer and potentially about £1.3 billion to the economy in total – mostly as a result of the extra holidays. However these figures don’t include the costs of security, policing and logistical arrangements. For Mahinda’s visit this will be covered by the British at a direct cost to the British taxpayer and could be the biggest direct cost.”
The situation is further complicated by the fact that the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and President Rajapaksa will all be at this lunch as guests of the Secretary General of the Commonwealth and so it is likely that the Commonwealth Secretariat will pay a share – perhaps most or all – of the non policing costs. This is taxpayers’ money too of course – the money of taxpayers in all Commonwealth nations. The Commonwealth Secretariat has a budget of £15 million but doesn’t specify how much they spend on hospitality. All this money comes from Commonwealth nations (i.e. taxpayers) based upon their ability to pay. For example, that the UK will bear 31percent of the cost, Sri Lanka 1 percent and India 4 percent.
“So we know it’s a very expensive lunch with lots of security costs which is being funded by the taxpayer but we don’t know how much it will cost and whether it is the UK taxpayer or all Commonwealth taxpayers – and they are not making that information available,” he said.
Peter Tatchell said, “Buckingham Palace’s refusal to confirm the guest list is arrogant and anti-democratic. As the Head of State of a democratic nation, the Queen should be transparent and accountable to the public. This secrecy and evasion is the enemy of democracy. The vast majority of the British people would not want the Queen to wine and dine these vile dictators.”
“I should also add that while we did mention the fact that it is a taxpayer funded lunch and we didn’t think that was an appropriate use of funds (either UK funds or Commonwealth funds) we have other, ethical objections to the lunch as well,” added the Campaign Director ‘Sri Lanka Campaign’. Edward Mortimer, the Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Campaign, who is a former speechwriter to Kofi Annan said, “In the light of the credible allegations of war crimes against the Sri Lankan President, and the brutality of his regime towards minorities, human rights defenders, and independent journalists, we would urge the Queen not to break bread with him.” “Many in the international community have been working hard to bring the Sri Lankan Government back towards respect for human rights and the rule of law. At this moment it is absolutely vital that we keep the pressure on; this is not the moment for treating the President of Sri Lanka to pomp and pageantry,” he added.
It is clear that the Human Rights community in UK is going to use this opportunity to protest against world leaders presiding over a variety of human rights abuses such as war crimes, detention without trial, torture, the denial of free speech, restrictions on press freedom, discrimination against women, oppression of minority faiths, homophobic persecution, ill-treatment of guest workers and the violent suppression of peaceful protests. “The invitations are a shocking misjudgement. They show the Queen is out of touch with the humanitarian values of most British people. She’s putting royalty before human rights,” said Peter Tatchell. The Sri Lanka Campaign is of the opinion that the Royal household is very sensitive to negative publicity around the jubilee. The British Royal Family has recently introduced ways for you to give them people’s opinions. The Sri Lanka Campaign wants people to use these channels such as Queen’s Twitter @British Monarchy, Facebook, ‘The British Monarchy’ and other websites to tell them that the Queen should not be celebrating her jubilee in the company of war criminals.
“There is a good chance that this will be successful but, even if he does come, it is important that we register our strong objection. At least President Mahinda will not be able to portray his visit as a public relations triumph,” the Campaign said