With music, poetry, film and words, the Scottish Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia launched its first social evening which was enjoyed by more than 100 supporters at the CCA in Glasgow on Tuesday 18 January.
In his welcome, John Matthew, chair of the Glasgow Branch of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) which is actively promoting the campaign, said: ‘Everyone is welcome – and an especial welcome to anyone sent here by the Gambia Government or Security Service. Here, you will hear the truth!’
The truth about people who had been imprisoned, tortured, disappeared or killed in cold blood for saying things that were constitutional but critical of the present regime, was related in a variety of ways.
Exiled journalist Alieu Ceesay outlined the reality of life in the sunny West African country. Not only is he on a ‘wanted’ list which is checked at every point of entry to the Gambia, but last week the country’s own Justice Minister Edward Gomez, threatened him and the Scottish Campaign for Human Rights. ‘We will wait here for them to come,’ said the Justice Minister. And warned they would be prosecuted on arrival in Gambia.
Amnesty filmed interviews of a woman writer who was imprisoned and whose baby was taken from her and put into an orphanage and of a male politician who was tortured and witnessed others being tortured and killed in prison, were screened.
A messages of support was given by Peter Swindon, assistant to Westminster MP Anas Sarwar (Labour) who has had 27 cross-party MPs signing an Early Day Motion condemning the abuses of human right in the Gambia. Through the MP, the Campaign has made contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee to inform their cause and the UK Government’s responses and policies.
Said Peter: ‘We have been inspired by the courage and bravery of people like Alieu Ceesay and exiled journalist Charles Atangana from the Cameroons. These voiceless people need us to stand up and shout for them.’
MSP Patrick Harvie (Scottish Green Party) detailed how he has brought forward a similar early day motion in the Scottish Parliament which has been signed by 25 MSPs from the different parties. He emphasised that such human rights were a fundamental part of any democracy. MSP Anne McLaughlin (SNP) also pledged support.
NUJ President, Peter Murray, explained how important it was for a journalist to be able to investigate and circulate their stories especially when a government is corrupt. ‘This is at the heart of good journalism,’ he said. ‘Informed people are strong people.’
Amnesty International representative Arthur West, who is chair of Ayrshire Branch, told the meeting that asylum seekers like Alieu and Charles have been rejected by the UK. ‘We are encouraged to continue the fight for fairness and justice when we hear what people like them have to say and what they have experienced.’
The information was interspersed with poetry, music, song and laughter.
Karina and Ben set the tone of the evening with voice and keyboard. Babs MacGregor followed with some old and new Gaelic songs. Tawong Sithole a poet and musician from Zimbabwe, played the traditional music instrument, mbirg, to wonderful effect. His poems of critical assessment of self and others, were powerful. He and some of his colleagues entertain regularly at the CCA at the Charing Cross end of Sauchiehall Street under the name: Seeds of Thought. An uplifting set from the Parsonage Choir keep the mood bright and enabled everyone to leave with a song in their hearts and with some serious information in their mind.
Words and Photograph by Stuart Maxwell
‘It will be an uphill struggle. None of us has a crystal ball and we don’t know what the future holds. But we’ve already faced a huge struggle and survived. We will have to find ways to continue.’
Those were the determined words of Cathy McKay, who sits on Castlemilk Stress Centre’s board of directors. On Tuesday 21 September, the service held it’s Annual General Meeting. There was a lot to discuss: in the past year, as the LOCAL NEWS has reported, the stress centre has been shut down due to massive funding withdrawal from the Glasgow City Council (GCC) only to reopen after a valiant local fight back. See the story on:
The centre now operates on funding from the Long Term Conditions Alliance (LTCD). This money will allow staff at the centre to offer therapies until June 2011, hence Cathy’s ‘We will have to find ways to continue.’
Guest speaker at the AGM was MSP Anne McLaughlin. The SNP politician had fought for the Stress Centre since the abrupt announcement in March that funding would be withdrawn. When the centre was reopened Anne said: ‘When I heard that the centre was to close, I knew that we had to put up a fight to keep it open. A facility like this can’t just be struck off in the way that the Council was planning to – it’s for too important for that. So I wish the centre well, and I am so relieved that the people of Castlemilk, and beyond, have this brilliant facility.’
Also in attendance was Councillor James Dornan, who also offered his services after the closure. Said James: ‘It was a great night (the AGM) and I was delighted for the stress centre after an extremely difficult period. They won their fight. It was also encouraging to see so many people come forward and offer to help.’
Councillor Dornan also told the LOCAL NEWS that he was ‘hopeful’ that future funding for the Stress Centre could be achieved with GCC help, possibly through the Glasgow Community Planning Partnership.
Two people came forward at the AGM, held at the centre’s new premises in Castlemilk Youth Complex on Ardencraig Road, hoping to join the board of directors. This will be decided in the October elections. The stress centre will also open it’s doors on Thursday 7 October as part of Stress Management Week. This will give the public a chance to see the invaluable therapies that the Stress Centre offers.
The Castlemilk Stress Centre on Ardencraig Road in Castlemilk can be reached on 0141-248-2864
by Lynsay Keough
Anne McLaughlin MSP has welcomed the fact that the Small Business Bonus Scheme delivered average savings of more than £1,400 for companies in Scotland last year. New figures reveal that in her own area of Glasgow, it delivered, on average, £1800 of savings in 2009-10. The scheme was launched in 2008 to provide non-domestic rates relief in Scotland for small businesses.
In Aberdeen, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, Inverclyde and South Lanarkshire, small companies benefiting from the scheme saved more than £1,700 on average in 2009/10. In Glasgow and North Lanarkshire the figure was over £1,800 pounds.
The new findings follow recent figures showing that the number of Scottish small business properties benefiting from business rates relief packages had risen by 18 per cent over the year to around 110,500. Of these, 74,000 were business properties that paid zero or reduced business rates due to the Small Business Bonus Scheme in 2009-10 – up from 64,000 recipients the year before.
Welcoming the new figures, Anne McLaughlin, SNP MSP for the Glasgow Region said:
‘Glasgow’s small businesses will be vital in the economic recovery. It is such businesses which will really drive economic growth as they seek to expand and develop. That’s why I’m proud that the Scottish Government’s Small Business Bonus Scheme is making such a difference to Glaswegian business people. We all recognise the difference that having thriving small businesses makes to our city’s streets and communities.’