Home' Greymouth Star : August 15th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Saturday, August 15, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1848 - M Waldo Hanchett of Syracuse, New
York, patents the dental chair.
1903 - New Zealand wins first rugby union
test against Australia, 22-3 . 1945 - Millions
worldwide celebrate VJ Day, a day after Japan’s
surrender is announced, ending World War Two.
1947 - After 200 years, India
becomes independent from British
rule with Jawaharlal Nehru as prime
minister. Pakistan, a new country is
car ved out of India.
1950 - An earthquake measuring
about 8.7 on the Richter scale strikes
Assam, India, killing over 1000
1961 - East German workers begin to build
1965 - 55,600 attend a Beatles concert at Shea
Stadium, NY, creating world attendance and
revenue records for a pop concert.
1969 - Woodstock Music and Art Fair opens
in upstate New York.
1994 - Carlos the Jackal, freelance terrorist, is
arrested in Sudan and flown to Paris for trial.
1998 - A car bomb blast in Omagh, Northern
Ireland, kills 29 people.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Napoleon Bonaparte, French emperor (1769-
1821); Sir Walter Scott, Scottish novelist-poet
(1771-1832); Ethel Barrymore, US
actress (1879-1959); Julia Child, US
author-cook (1912-2004); Robert
Bolt, British playwright, screenwriter
and director (1924-1995); Princess
Anne (1950-); Tess Harper, US actor
(1950-); Stieg Larsson, Swedish
author (1954-2004); Debra Messing,
US actress (Will and Grace)
(1968-); Ben Affleck, US actor (1972-);
Jennifer Lawrence, American actress (1990-) .
“ We must not read either law or history
backward.” — Helen Cam, English historian
and educator (1885-1968).
“Sell all that you own and distribute the
money to the poor, and you will have treasure
in heaven; then come, follow me. ”
— (Luke 18:22).
“Don’t be a jack of
all trades — master
one sport.” This is the
advice of one who has
represented West Coast in tennis, badminton,
cricket, indoor basketball, hockey; who has
been a Coast junior and intermediate golf
champion and who, after his two years at the
sport, was on a nine handicap.
Owen Harrison is a man well equipped to
give this advice, but by adopting the opposite
view, he has swept the field. For almost every
sport he has taken on he has a silver-plated
memoir. A quiet-spoken mercer, he is not given
to boasting of his past achievements. One
thing is sure; they are certainly worth bragging
He is gradually withdrawing from
competitive sport, but the name of O wen
Harrison will still have two links —
administrative, and an engraved name on an
armful of West Coast trophies.
The death of Mr Michael Edward Kelly,
aged 90, resident of Awatuna, has occurred
at Hokitika. The deceased who was born at
Awatuna and lived there all his life, was the son
of pioneer goldminer Mr Thomas Kelly.
Educated at the Stafford School, Mr Kelly in
his early years worked in the goldmining and
sawmilling industries. Acknowledged as an
expert at squaring railway sleepers, he spent the
greater part of his life as a silver pine cutter.
Predeceased by his wife Eliza 48 years ago,
Mr Kellyn is sur vived by four daughters, Alice
(Mrs A Robinson), Edith (Mrs F Quintal,
Christchurch), Grace (Mrs E Baxter) and
Mary (Mrs K Ogilvie, Hokitika); two sons,
Thomas and Michael (Awatuna).
uFood for thought
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Ronald C Slye
t may be time for a United
States Truth and Reconciliation
Commission to deal with America’s
legacy of slavery. Political analysts
referred to the nation’s “original sin”
of slavery while discussing recent
police killings of unarmed black men.
Other incidents of race-based violence
continue to plague US society.
I teach law focusing on transitional justice
and have worked with two national truth
commissions. From 1996 to 2001, I was a
consultant to the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission in South Africa, which
examined that country’s legacy of racism,
slavery and apartheid. From 2009 to
2013, I was one of three international
commissioners on Kenya’s Truth, Justice
and Reconciliation Commission, which
addressed human-rights violations
committed over 45 years. Each was
established by its respective government as
an independent commission. Each panel
had its challenges. Yet both shed light on
the systematic historical injustices that, like
it or not, defined each country.
Could a truth commission work for the
United States? It would certainly help
Americans confront the nation’s past racial
injustices. Truth commissions are designed
to analyse the systemic context of historical
offences and trace their continuing effects
Truth commissions allow diverse
constituencies to tell their sides of the story
and examine the history and results of
gross violations of human rights. Because
they are not courts of law, the panels
cannot legally prosecute or punish people.
Both these attributes — taking a broad
analytical view of historical injustices and
their impact on today ’s society, as well as
providing a safe place for people to discuss
their experiences and perspectives — are
crucial in any national conversation about
the legacy of slavery.
My experience with the two commissions
in Africa underscores the importance of
who is chosen to lead the panel and the
breadth of its mandate.
The commissioners must bring a
diversity of skills. People not open to
hearing the perspectives of others would
do a poor job of fostering the national
conversation required. Though it is
important to have commissioners with a
legal background, my experience shows it
is also crucial to have people from other
disciplines, including psychology, history,
human rights, economics and racial and
It is also useful to bring in people
from other countries. A number of
commissions, including in Kenya, Sierra
Leone and Guatemala, did this. It enriches
the discussion, for example, to include
people from Africa to address the legacy
Who heads the commission is critical.
South Africa was blessed to have
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who witnessed
and suffered through apartheid. Perhaps
the United States could turn to President
Barack Obama. He has roots in Africa,
and his family and ancestry embodies the
country’s complex racial history.
During Obama’s recent trip to Africa, he
pledged to do more involving US-African
relations after he leaves office. L eading a
national, or even international, conversation
on slavery and its legacy might be a smart
way to start that engagement.
Apart from deciding who would staff such
a commission, it is also key that the panel’s
mandate be broad enough to encompass
the complexities of the history and legacy
of slavery. At the same time its mandate
should not be so broad that it becomes
The South African truth commission’s
mandate, for example, was later viewed
as too narrow. It did not closely examine
the crime of apartheid — and so did
not engage directly with the effects of
institutionalised racism. The Kenyan
truth commission’s mandate, by contrast,
was too broad. It was charged with
examining not only criminal assaults such
as assassinations, massacres and rapes but
also violations of civil, economic and social
rights. The mandate of a truth commission
on slavery would need enough flexibility
to explore the complexities of the problem
and its legacy — but not so broad as to
over whelm the panel and ensure its failure.
The legacy of slavery is complex. There
can, of course, be no first-hand testimony.
Yet the United States is still influenced
by the inheritance that slaves and
slaveholders have bequeathed to us.
My experience in Kenya and South
Africa taught me that most people cannot
be reduced to the categories of good or
bad. People responsible for the worst
atrocities in each of the countries often
had redeeming qualities. Some who
perpetrated violations against others were
themselves victims of injustice.
One of a truth commission’s most
essential functions is to separate the
character of a person from the character of
his or her actions. We often fall into the
trap of wanting to reduce people to good
or bad, innocent or guilty.
A person may be guilty of committing a
terrible violation, for example, but we do
a disser vice by viewing him or her only
through that single act. My experience
taught me that people are more willing
to acknowledge and address their own
wrongdoing — or that of their ancestors
— if they can be assured they will not be
judged solely on those bad acts. Human
beings are more complex, whether it is a
19th-century slaveholder or a person today
on death row.
I am a descendant of slaveholders. My
ancestor, Robert Carter, was one of the
wealthiest landholders — and one of the
largest slaveholders — in colonial Virginia.
His wealth and power earned him the
nickname ‘King’ Carter. His descendants
include two presidents — William
Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison
— five signers of the Declaration of
Independence, Robert E Lee and me.
King Carter’s grandson, Robert Carter
III, held hundreds of slaves and, like many
of his contemporaries, administered what
he labeled as “stern punishments” that
today we would not hesitate to call a crime
against humanity. Yet this same man freed
more than 450 of his slaves in 1791 — the
single largest act of emancipation by any
Carter’s journey to this unprecedented
act of defiance and liberation is
complicated. In his youth, he did appear
more compassionate with his slaves
than many of his contemporaries. His
conversion to an anti-slavery Baptist
Church may have been the defining
moment that compelled him to harness
his spiritual beliefs into concrete action.
Yet many of Carter’s contemporaries had
exhibited the same traits. Some attended
the same church. None of them, however,
rejected slavery as Carter did.
For the 450 slaves and their families
freed by Carter, it was an extraordinary,
life-changing event. Carter was a racist
who participated in one of the modern
world’s worst crimes against humanity.
He also performed a profoundly generous
act anchored in the ideals of liberty and
freedom taking hold in the new United
Carter’s act of freedom and liberation
cannot negate his complicity in one of the
worst crimes against humanity. They both
define him as a person.
America’s national debates about race
are too often simplistic and polarising.
They produce copious amounts of heat
and noise, but little light. We often fail to
acknowledge the complexity of our history,
both personal and collective.
Yet one now senses a shift in the public
mood. The remarkably swift forgiveness
from the families of those killed in the
Charleston church — a more pure example
of Christian love is hard to find these days
— has shamed many of us to reflect rather
The mobilisation around removing the
Confederate battle flag from government
buildings has led to a tentative national
conversation about how we memorialise
and remember the Civil War, the war in
which the promise of freedom anchored
in the American Revolution was finally
achieved. We are beginning to engage
at a national level about the messages
conveyed by statues and memorials to
the Confederacy. It is a much-needed
Carter’s contradictions are with us today.
A country founded on ideals of freedom,
liberty and human rights at the same time
enslaved millions of people during most of
its first century. There is no question that
Americans have made progress in fulfilling
the aspirational ideals that animated the
founders of this country. There is also no
question that the country still has a long
way to go to acknowledge and address the
violence and oppression that is a part of US
A truth commission would not — and
could not — solve the problems that
America faces because of its original sin
of slavery. The appropriate test for a truth
commission is whether it furthers the
nation’s efforts to engage meaningfully
with the present manifestations of past
Refusing to recognise and engage with
past injustices compounds the effect of
that history and can even result in new
injustices. Acknowledging such history can,
if we choose, lead to a renewed effort for
more Americans to address the legacy of
slavery and racism that still runs deep in
US society. — Reuters
Truth and reconciliation
Slaves picking cotton in the 1800s.
Islamist fanatics, as
you would expect, are
very earnest about their
beliefs. They accept that
secrecy and deceit are
necessary to mislead the
enemy, but they do not
expect their leaders to be
lying to them. When they
find out that they have
been lied to, consistently
and over a long period
of time, they get very cross — and this has
repercussions in the real world.
From the time that the Taliban conquered
Kabul and took over most of Afghanistan
in 1996, Mullah Mohammed Omar
Mansoor was the man who ran the show
and was effectively the head of state. He
was the man who allowed Osama bin
Laden to set up camp in Afghanistan.
Although the Taliban lost power after
the United States invasion in 2001,
Mullah Omar remained in control of the
organisation until his death in 2013.
The trouble is that nobody told his faithful
followers that he died more than two years
ago in Pakistan. Until last week the Taliban
was still issuing statements in his name
— mo st recently, on July 15, a message
endorsing the Taliban’s recent peace talks
with the current Afghani government. Now
all Mullah Omar’s statements since April
2013 are in question, and so are the men
who made them in his name.
This matters a lot, because Mullah Omar
was not just the leader of the Taliban. He
was also the most important figure in the
broader alliance of Islamist groups known
as al Qaeda. Indeed, he had as much right
to claim to be its founder as the man who
actually gets the credit, Osama bin Laden.
With his long record as a real fighter,
Mullah Omar was much more respected
than the man who formally inherited
al Qaeda’s leadership after Osama bin
Laden was killed in 2011, the reclusive
Egyptian theorist Ayman al Zawahiri.
Indeed, Zawahiri felt compelled to renew
his pledge of allegiance (“baya”) to Mullah
Omar when the rival jihadi group, Islamic
State, declared its leader, Abu Bakr al
Baghdadi, to be the “caliph of all the
Muslims” in 2014.
This is not just internal politics in a local
jihadi group. Al Qaeda and Islamic State
are in a frequently violent competition
for the loyalty of all the scattered Islamist
groups in the Muslim countries. It was
therefore very important for al Qaeda that
Mullah Omar rejected Baghdadi’s claim to
be the caliph — and it is very important
to the rest of the world that the two jihadi
organisations remain divided and hostile to
Al Qaeda has been losing ground in this
competition for some years now. Indeed,
Islamic State recently set up its own rival
franchises in the two countries where al
Qaeda still dominates the struggle against
the local regime, Afghanistan and Yemen.
The two groups are currently at war with
each other in both countries, but that
could change fast if al Qaeda’s leadership
is discredited by the lies it has been
If Mullah Omar actually died in 2013,
he could not have denounced Baghdadi’s
claim to be the legitimate caliph in 2014.
Similarly, Zawahiri’s pledge of allegiance
to him in 2014 was either a deliberate lie,
or a demonstration that he is hopelessly
out of touch with what is actually
happening beyond his hide-out, presumably
somewhere in Pakistan. Either way, al
Qaeda loses credibility.
So does the Taliban, of course. When the
self-declared new leader of the Taliban,
Mullah Muhammad Akhtar Mansoor,
acknowledged that Mullah Omar is dead
at the beginning of this month, he carefully
omitted any reference to when Omar
died. But the Taliban fighting groups are
in chaos, because Akhtar Mansoor, then
officially Omar’s deputy, issued statements
in Omar’s name condemning Islamic State
as recently as last month.
Many Taliban groups are now questioning
Akhtar Mansoor’s claim to the leadership.
His response has been to break off peace
talks with the Afghani government and
launch some particularly vicious attacks
against the Afghani police and army, but it
may not be enough to secure his position.
As for Ayman al Zawahiri, he has not been
heard from since last September.
There would be no reason to mourn the
decline of al Qaeda except that the main
beneficiary will be Islamic State. There is
no strong reason to prefer one organisation
to the other, either — except that the last
thing the world needs is for Islamic State
to take over all of al Qaeda’s franchises and
create a single, much more powerful and
attractive Islamist fighting front.
The current state of division of the
extreme Islamist movement is deplored by
almost everybody in both organisations.
There is little ideological difference between
them, although Islamic State is more
apocalyptic in its vision. If al Qaeda’s claim
to leadership is seriously undermined by
its lies about Mullah Omar, the unification
of most or all the Islamist groups under
Baghdadi’s authority is a real possibility.
The first victim of that would be the
Assad regime in Syria, which is already
tottering, and an Islamist takeover of the
whole country. But much more might
follow, and none of it would be good news.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in 45
Mullah Omar: more trouble dead than alive
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
Many of you will be familiar with Jesus’s
words in what we call the Sermon on
the Mount and the Beatitudes. These
are writings that sum up what Jesus was
about, and, like The 10 Commandments in
the Jewish scriptures, represent core values
of living together and as God’s followers.
Most Bible translations start each of the
nine beatitudes with the word blessed.
Jesus would have spoken Aramaic and
the word he would have used means
strong and happy, or fortunate. The fifth
of the nine beatitudes or statements
says “Blessed are the merciful, for they
will receive mercy,” or “Fortunate are
the compassionate; they will receive
The Aramaic word at the heart of this
is rakham — birthing mercy, loving
kindness or deep-seated compassion and
empathy. This capacity for empathy, and
ability to enter into others distress or
longing or sadness, is one of the basic
human values that builds relationships
and communities. How often do we
complain that others do not understand
our experience; that responses to
situations reflect a lack of empathy or
compassion; and the opposite of this
empathy and compassion — indifference.
A lack of care or interest in what it is
like to be someone else. An inability to
identify with other than self. This is not a
wishy-washy, fuzzy feeling, soft option —
it was one of the reasons Jesus was put to
death. One of the reasons conscientious
objectors suffered so badly in our world
wars. One of the reasons protestors of all
sorts end up in prison. And one of the
reasons that people continue to exercise
it, because without it, we would be living
harsh unkind lives. Just think Dickens’
This call to loving kindness and
compassion is extended beyond just
ourselves as human beings to all living
things, including our planet Earth as a
living entity of its own. I was surprised
to learn that it was the same person
who campaigned for the abolition of
slavery who also established the society
for the protection of animals. William
Wilberforce. Rakham for all of life.
Greymouth Uniting Church.
Rakham for all of life
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