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Year 2009 No. 34, May 19, 2009 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Vesting Sovereignty in the People

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Vesting Sovereignty in the People

Birmingham Pensioners Rally Takes Place despite Attempts to Criminalise Dissent

Reparations Must Be Paid!

Press Release on the Mau Mau Reparation Suit

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Vesting Sovereignty in the People

May 19 marks the 360th anniversary of the declaration of the Commonwealth of England in 1649. An Act of parliament declaring England to be a Commonwealth and free state was enacted on May 19, 1649. The people of England and Wales (and subsequently Scotland and Ireland) were henceforth to be governed by the supreme authority of "this Nation, the Representatives of the People in Parliament and by such as they shall appoint and constitute as Officers and Ministers under them for the good of the People and that without any King or House of Lords" (Wikisource: Constitutional documents). Such a declaration puts in perspective the present political crisis with its roots in medieval absolutism, and the necessity to carry through to completion the democratic revolution, but with the working class as opposed to the then mercantile and commercial class constituting itself the nation.

The beheading of King Charles I on January 30, 1649, the period of the Commonwealth, and the subsequent restoration of the monarchy in the person of Charles II in 1660, demonstrate the objective struggle of the time as to the nature of supreme decision-making power and where that sovereign power lay. With the execution of the sovereign and the declaration of the Commonwealth, it was proclaimed that the Commons of England have the supreme power in the nation. But the "Commons" referred to the representatives of the property owners. What was fought for in the Civil War was civil rights due to those with property. Those with nothing had no rights. Nevertheless, the strivings for democracy were such that fierce debates were held whether sovereignty rested with parliament, the army or the law, or in fact with the people alone, which were in the end settled by control of state power. It can be said that the system of government as we know it today, that is the system of representative democracy, has evolved from this struggle over where sovereignty lies.

The Political Report to the Third Congress of RCPB(ML), The Line of March to a New Society, states on this question: "The execution of Charles I did not fully resolve the question of political power. There were aspirations at this time that the people should be sovereign and wield political power. And these aspirations were expressed through the struggle of the Levellers, who demanded that the country should be ‘governed by neither parliament nor the army but by the people themselves’. The Levellers did not have the strength of organisation nor the backing of the army to be able to take advantage of the vacuum left in sovereign power after the execution of Charles I. They were voted down in the parliament and their campaign was forcibly suppressed by Cromwell’s New Model Army. The champions of the ‘natural aristocracy’ during this period were representatives of the rising merchant class, men of property, champions of ‘good government’ and civil rights, which were the rights of private property. They had no aspirations or interests to recognise the rights of the ordinary people. After the monarchy was restored, the battle for supreme political power became acute. This struggle gave rise to the development of the constitutional monarchy. The ascendant classes wanted to limit the power of the sovereign but at the same time they wanted sovereign power to remain indivisible. This contradiction could only be resolved in constitutional terms with the idea of the ‘King in Parliament’ whereby supreme decision-making power no longer resided in the person of the king himself but actually resided in the parliament. The constitutional monarchy was further limited by the ‘Bill of Rights’ of 1689 when certain of the King’s prerogative powers were limited and William and Mary in accepting the throne had to agree to govern according to the statutes in Parliament. Today it is still the monarch in Parliament that is sovereign and this together with the royal prerogative gives the Cabinet absolute power."

The question of vesting sovereignty in the people remains to be resolved. The political system still guarantees that the electorate is kept out of governance and sovereignty is not vested in the people. It is the urgent question of the moment to change this situation and fight for a modern political system which is based on the principle that all have rights by virtue of being human. The people have the right themselves to govern and not depend on their mis-named "representatives".

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Birmingham Pensioners Rally Takes Place despite Attempts to Criminalise Dissent

A rally of over 350 people took place in Victoria Square, Birmingham, organised by pensioners last weekend.

It went ahead and was addressed by MPs, leading trade unionists and other organisations. The legitimate rally was successful despite attempts by the Birmingham authorities and police to prevent it. First, the organisers were told last minute that it could not take place, using the latest tactic saying that there was no public liability insurance.

This is despite many years of activity where people have exercised their democratic right to hold such rallies in the same area and have being covered by the authorities taking responsibility for the safety of the people. Nevertheless, the insurance monopolies were approached to provide such cover at the cost of the organisers and the insurance companies also then joined in the attempted sabotage by refusing cover.

Even so, organisers were not to be deterred. Ron Dorman, chief organiser, decided on behalf of the pensioners that the democratic right to dissent should be upheld and proceeded with organising the rally stating categorically that it would go ahead! The authorities stepped in to demand on the day that it should be cancelled and halted the workers erecting the platform and PA system. The police intervened and one sergeant and two officers insisted that the rally should not occur. Because of the insistence of Ron Dorman, the police officers contacted superior officers who were to arrive later on the scene. In the meantime, the workers with the PA system had been sent away. Undeterred the organisers hastily gained access to a mobile PA system and utilised another area as a platform where the rally started. The Police Inspector who arrived amid the rally capitulated and decided that the rally should be allowed to continue. It did so and was completely successful, thwarting the plans of the state and local authorities to prevent the event taking place.

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Reparations Must Be Paid!

Five elderly Kenyans detained and tortured during the Mau Mau independence uprising of more than 50 years ago are to issue a reparations claim against the British government in London next month.

The Mau Mau War Veterans Association and the Kenya Human Rights Commission said that three men and two women, all in their 70s or 80s, would be the lead claimants in a case to be lodged at the high court on June 23. If they are successful, thousands of other people imprisoned and abused during the 1950s and early 1960s could be added to a potentially huge class action suit.

More than 150,000 Kenyans were held in appalling conditions in concentration camps during the uprising against the British colonial administration, according to recent studies. Tens of thousands of people were killed or died of disease or starvation, while torture of prisoners was routine and brutal.

Gitu Wa Kahengeri, 79, spokesman for the Mau Mau War Veterans Association, who spent seven years in detention camps, said that the advanced age of the veterans meant the claim was extremely urgent. "Britain knows what it did. It would be morally wrong to deny us."

We are printing herewith the press release on the Mau Mau Reparation Suit. Reparations must be paid! Justice for all victims of the crimes of British colonialism!

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Press Release on the Mau Mau Reparation Suit

(Issued in Nairobi-Kenya at the Pan-Afric Hotel on May 10, 2009)

London-based solicitors, Leigh, Day & Co, have been instructed by the Kenyan Human Rights Commission to issue a claim for compensation against the British Government on behalf of the Mau Mau veterans. These, now elderly Kenyans, were assaulted, tortured and unlawfully imprisoned for a number of years during the brutal repression of the Mau Mau movement by the British Government which took place in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission has now documented 40 cases of castration, severe sexual abuses and unlawful detention, which were carried out by officers of the British Government. The actual number of Kenyans who suffered this barbaric treatment at the hands of British officers in fact runs into their thousands.

In recent years, following exhaustive research by historians, it has become clear that far from being the acts of a few rogue soldiers, the torture and inhuman and degrading treatment of Kenyans during the Emergency Period (1950s to early 1960s) resulted from policies which were sanctioned at the highest levels of Government in London. It was only after the tireless work of campaigners over a number of years and the revelation of the massacre of 11 Kenyans at the Hola Detention Camp that Britain was forced to close its detention camps and cease the barbaric practices it had been employing with impunity for so many years.

It is ironic that, at the time Britain was instrumental in the creation of the post war human rights treaties, conventions and institutions, it was violating basic human rights in Kenya on a breathtaking scale1. As President Barack Obama recently recalled, during the Second World War, Winston Churchill was adamant in his view that "Britain does not torture" even when it seems expedient to do so. Indeed, Barack Obama’s own grandfather, Onyango Obama, was unlawfully and wrongfully detained for months as part of the British Government’s vicious crackdown on the Mau Mau movement.

Leigh, Day & Co will be issuing a claim on behalf of the Mau Mau veterans in London in June 23, 2009. They are men and women from different Kenyan communities who are representative of the wider community of Mau Mau veterans.

It is hoped that this will be an opportunity for the British Government to come to terms with this stain on British history and to apologise to the Kenyan people for this historic wrong. Unless this happens, the sense of injustice arising out of Britain’s excessive response to the Mau Mau movement will continue to be deeply felt among all Kenyans for generations to come.

Signed:

1. Dan Leader: Leigh, Day & Co.

2. George Morara: Kenya Human Rights Commission

3. Gitu wa Kahengeri: Mau Mau War Veterans Association


1. For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [1948] and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [1950]

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