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Archive for November 3rd, 2013

This blog post has been updated at the end of the original article with an email/legal threat sent to me this morning (Monday, Nov 4) by Takki Sulaiman, the head of communications at Tower Hamlets council. 

Further update (Friday, November 8): A sentence has been deleted from the original article (see marks in red below). This  follows a letter sent to me yesterday from the council’s chief executive’s directorate in the name of Interim Monitoring Officer Mark Norman. The full letter can be seen at the end of the first update to this post.

biggs fundraiserI was going to attend John Biggs’s mayor campaign fundraiser at Canary Wharf last Tuesday, but I couldn’t afford the £100 a head ticket price.

Apparently hundreds of others could.

There seems to have been a pretty impressive turnout by the Labour party, including several leading MPs.

John Biggs tweet

Sadiq Khan, who wants to be London Mayor, was there, as was Margaret Hodge, Rushanara Ali, Jim Fitzpatrick, David Lammy, who also wants to be London Mayor, John Spellar and Stephen Timms.

I’d imagine he’s built up a good war-chest as a result; he does need it. [Following a letter from the council’s chief executive’s department, a sentence has been deleted here. Please see the second update to this post at the end of this article.]

John made reference to this issue in his speech at the dinner, a speech I’m told that went down well.

Lutfur is so full of crap when it comes to his One Tower Hamlets mantra that it’s easy to be cynical of other politicians when they talk about cross-community unity.

But having seen John at work fairly closely over the past few years, I’m fairly sure he’s sincere about it.

He sent me a copy of his speech, so here it is:

Thank you for coming this evening. It is humbling to see so many people here. I know you’ve mainly come to see me. But it’s also a sign of the drive our Party has to win back Tower Hamlets.

I’m proud to be leading that fight – not for me, but for the change we all know this community desperately needs.

We need to start a new chapter in the life of Tower Hamlets – one of the most vibrant and exciting places on the planet.

This is my home. I’ve seen it ebb and flow over the years, walking with giants in its proudest moments – falling well short of its potential at its lowest.

Today, Tower Hamlets is at a crossroads. Although there is great success and achievement, for too many this isn’t happening. The people are being neglected, divided and, unless they are favoured, left behind by the very Mayor who is meant to help them.

GAP

Tower Hamlets is a story of ambition and change going back to the roots of the East End. It’s a story of people travelling here, whether from half way round the world or, like parts of my family, the English countryside because they want to improve their lives and the lives of their families. 

It’s a story of traditional communities flying the flag for and constantly, subtly, redefining our heritage, culture and values. It’s a story of new professionals, entrepreneurs, even bankers. All want to call our borough home.

The story of Tower Hamlets is about seizing opportunity, working together and realising potential.

Look at what is on our doorstep – the City, Canary Wharf, Tech City, the media and legal centre of the world, world beating medicine, the list is endless – our community should be using those opportunities. Many are. But for many this is not happening. A vital job for a modern council is to make people more powerful. We can do that.

Whether it’s SMEs or global giants, I know how much good business can do for the borough. Take where we sit tonight, Canary Wharf. This isn’t an island shut off from the rest of the borough. It’s part of our borough, our community. When I win I want to work with business, not for token gestures or pet projects but developing proper partnerships that benefit everyone. The best way to get jobs for local people is to work with business but Lutfur Rahman refuses unless it involves a photo-opportunity, and he doesn’t care about the detail.

Instead of making the most of the opportunities in Tower Hamlets he fails at every chance he has.

Take the Olympics – the golden example. We were at the centre of the world’s biggest festival. Yet what did Tower Hamlets get? Not a single Olympic event. No marathon. No lasting jobs. No homes. No vision.

But maybe that’s not fair – let’s not forget one achievement – the current mayor did get a VIP pass and tickets to the best events.

The world on our doorstep just waiting to be invited in and Lutfur Rahman still fails. To tweak a phrase I heard at the Labour Party Conference, Tower Hamlets can do better than this!

The problem is he believes it’s not his fault. Always someone else’s problem, always someone else’s fault. It’s wicked business, the evil Government, the McCarthyite Labour Party.

The best excuse came recently when his Cabinet suggested that families shouldn’t complain about the late night raves he packs into Victoria Park because it was their fault for choosing to live there. He just doesn’t get it!

He says people in Tower Hamlets are victims. We’re not, we’re passionate fighters.   

GAP

I know we can win next year. But let’s not kid ourselves – the challenge facing us is significant.

I and my great team of councillors and soon to be announced candidates will be working every second we have to win back control in 2014 but we do need your help. Running elections on this scale is not cheap. And our opposition is mysteriously well financed.

We on the other hand rely on you, our friends and members. Tonight’s proceeds will go towards vital materials and another new organiser to help us get our message out there, to show people they have a chance to get the borough moving forward again, not missing every chance we get for another 4 years.

Tonight I have a new pledge – I’m told you need one. It’s about stopping that cult of personality that’s more at home in North Korea than East London.

There will be some urgent cuts:

No Mayoral mug shots plastered across the borough.

No more abuse of East End Life.

No more luxury mayoral Mercedes.

No more wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds on mayoral ‘advisors’.

And sadly no more driver to do the all important mayoral laundry.

Joking aside, this is an important point and an important election.  It’s about the future of our borough and our people.

Whether kids go to good schools.

Whether there are jobs for them when they leave

Whether homes are affordable and the streets safe.

A community with confidence and a sense of its place.

As Mayor I’ll work to make smart choices informed by the Labour values of fairness, equality and social justice. That’s why it’s so important to elect a Labour Mayor here in Tower Hamlets. 

This is no time to waste money – it’s a time to take important decisions that will help hard working people.  That’s why I’ve already pledged to scrap zero hour contracts in the borough and why Tower Hamlets Labour campaigning has forced the Council to blacklist the blacklisters, not working with companies who blacklist workers.

Tower Hamlets is the home of Cable Street and not one but two labour party leaders. It’s a melting pot and an economic powerhouse. The richest and poorest of places. It deserves better.

The future story of Tower Hamlets is about seizing opportunity, working together and realising potential.

The Future story of Tower Hamlets is about One East End – working together to build a better future.

Thank you

A bit different in tone to Lutfur, wouldn’t you agree?

UPDATE, Monday November 4

Takki Sulaiman, the council’s head of communications, sent me this email this morning:

I am writing to express concern about a line in the blog post dated Sunday 3rd November entitled: John Biggs’s speech at Labour gala dinner fundraiser.

“I’d imagine he’s built up a good war-chest as a result; he does need it given the way Lutfur Rahman has been raiding the grants budgets to fund his campaign.”

On reading the second phrase of the above a reader of your blog could easily conclude that funds from the Council’s Voluntary Sector Grants programme were being used to directly fund a campaign.  

This would of course be illegal and is not possible as council spending is subject to numerous statutory rules and processes plus the check and balance of audit and inspection.  

Given this, could I ask that you remove this phrase so as to avoid any potential damage to Mayor Rahman’s reputation.  

It is quite possible that this phrase is libellous.
 


Please let me know your intended course of action.

I’ve let him know that it’s pretty clear I don’t mean there’s been a direct bank transfer from the council’s budget to his campaign account (if I had evidence of that, I think I’d have headlined this post slightly differently…). I’m also fairly sure that this blog has made clear over the years that I think Lutfur is exploiting the grants system to buy votes for his political ends.

It’s lucky that most of my readers have the ability to understand the figurative meaning of words and phrases; most readers are intelligent to spot the subtle differences.

The last person to threaten to sue me in similar circumstances was deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed.

I did think Takki understood the use of language better than Ohid…

SECOND UPDATE – November 8, 2013.

Please see the following links containing a letter from Mark Norman, the interim monitoring officer for Tower Hamlets council’s chief executive’s department.

Mark Norman Mark Norman 2

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This is what you might call a holding post because I’m sure many more considered words and analysis will be filed by others on this subject.

This is from the Official Website of Chowdhury Mueen Uddin:

Chowdhury Mueen Uddin was Director of Muslim Spiritual Care Provision in the NHS. Since 2005, he has been advising healthcare providers on how best to provide patients spiritual care at times of need. In this capacity, he currently chairs the Multi-Faith Group for Healthcare Chaplaincy.

 He served on the Board of a number of distinguished charities. These include, among others, Board member Labo Housing Association and Gateway Housing Association; Past board member and vice chairman – As-Shahada Housing Association; Chairman and board member – Muslim Aid; Vice Chairman – East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre).

He served as the Secretary General of the Council of Mosques UK and Eire for 2 terms (1984 – 1988) and was involved – along with many others – in setting up the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

He was formerly Deputy Director of the Islamic Foundation, Markfield, Leicestershire (1995 – 2005) and, prior to that, worked for a leading Housing Association in London.

Chowdhury Mueen Uddin is married and lives in London. He was born in Bangladesh and read Literature at the University of Dhaka. He began his career as a journalist, filing moving accounts of the Great 1970 Cyclone and interviewing the burgeoning independence leader of that country, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

And today the BBC reports this about him:

A UK Muslim leader and a US citizen have been sentenced to death over crimes committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence.

UK-Bangladeshi Muslim community leader Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khanwas were being tried in absentia by a special tribunal in Bangladesh.

They were found guilty on 11 charges relating to the abduction and killing of 18 independence supporters.

Verdicts in similar cases have sparked violent reactions in Bangladesh.

The proceedings of the International Crimes Tribunal have come under criticism from several rights groups, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch, which has described the trials as flawed.

The online news service BD24 has more detail:

Al Badr leaders Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin have been sentenced to death for killing top Bengali intellectuals in the last days of the 1971 Liberation War.

The two have been found guilty of torture and murder of 18 intellectuals including nine Dhaka University teachers, six journalists and three doctors during the war.

Justice Obaidul Hassan-led International Crimes Tribunal-2 said the prosecution had proven all the 11 charges against the two ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

The ICT-2 Chairman started the proceedings with his initial remarks at around 11am.

A total 41 pages of the 154-page verdict were read out.

Justice Shahinur Islam read out the first part of the 41-page summary verdict and Justice Mujibur Rahman Mia read the second part.

Justice Mia said the involvement of Ashrafuzzman and Mueen-Uddin with the killings of 18 intellectuals had been proven conclusively.

At times, they carried out the murders, sometimes they instigated and encouraged them, said the judge.

The two had complete control over the Al Badr during the Liberation War, said the verdict.

The tribunal in its verdict said Ashrafuzzaman and Mueen-Uddin will be ‘hanged until death’ for their war-time atrocities.

Other two judges — Justice Md Mujibur Rahman Mia and Judge Shahinur Islam — read out parts of the verdict.

Sunday’s verdict described how the former leaders of the Islami Chhatra Sangha, Jamaat’s student affiliate in 1971, had abducted and killed the intellectuals between Dec 11 and Dec 15 in 1971.

Ashrafuzzaman was the ‘chief planner’ and Mueen-Uddin was the ‘operation in-charge’ of the massacre.

A diary recovered from Ashrafuzzaman’s Nakhalparha residence in Dhaka after independence contained the plan for the massacre and a list of targets.

Freedom fighters waiting outside the court and the Ganajagaran Mancha supporters hailed the sentence.

 Hundreds turned out on the streets in Gopalganj and Feni — home districts of the two convicts — to celebrate the verdict.

They demanded its swift execution.

 The prosecution also expressed satisfaction.

It is the ninth verdict of the ongoing war crimes trials involving the two tribunals.

So far, six former and current Jamaat leaders and two BNP leaders have been convicted.

Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin was born in November, 1948 at Chanpur in Feni’s Dagonbhuiyan to Delowar Hossain.

He was a student of Bangla department at Dhaka University during the Liberation War and worked as a staff correspondent of Dainik Purbadesh.

According to case details, Mueen-Uddin was a central leader of Jamaat’s student front and member of the notorious militia outfit Al Badr.

He was given ‘important’ position in Al Badr and he spearheaded the execution of the Bengali intelligentsia towards the end of the Liberation War.

Mueen-Uddin’s family, too, had come out strongly in support of Pakistan, according to the prosecution.

He fled to Pakistan and to the UK from there, after Bangladesh gained independence. He has been residing in London since.

Apart from discharging important duties of Jamaat-affiliated ‘Dawatul Islam’ in London, he is also the executive editor of weekly Dawat.

He is one of the directors of National Health Services, a trustee of the Muslim Aid and chairman of Tottenham mosque’s executive committee.

On his website, the former Al Badr leader has admitted to his war-time role for a ‘unified Pakistan’.

In an interview to Al-Jazeera’s Jonah Hull for the program ‘Talk to Al-jazeera’ in July, he said the tribunal was a ‘joke’.

For the record, Mueen-Uddin, whom I met on the doorstep of his north London home in 2008, a couple of hours before I was sent a threatening legal letter by libel lawyers Carter Ruck, strongly denies the charges.

(And there’s not a cat in hell’s chance of him being extradited, largely due to Bangladesh’s use of the death penalty, but also because of serious concerns over the way these tribunals were conducted. If the Bangladesh National Party/Jamaat e Islami alliance win back power in the New Year, as many expect, these verdicts will be quashed anyway.)

Although he lives in Enfield, he has very strong links to Tower Hamlets, and not just through his work with the East London Mosque, the London Muslim Centre and the Royal London Hospital.

Note the name Dawatul Islam in the article above. He founded it.

It has received well in excess of £100,000–perhaps way more–over the years, both from Labour dominated Grants Panels and more recently from Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s vote buying fund grant pot.

As recently as August, Lutfur announced another £40,000 for it for a “Girl’s Talk” project. It’s aimed at preventing girls getting involved in gangs, which is kind of ironic given the history of some of Lutfur’s chief supporters..

The detail is here.

Just saying…

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