I meant to post about this yesterday, but didn’t get round to it.  Nevertheless, it really is too comprehensive a squelching not to highlight.

Yesterday, in Lords’ Question Time Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the former Leader of the UK Independence Party, had the following question on the Order Paper:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they will make to the Government of Botswana about their complying with the 1966 constitution, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and recent court judgments in their dealings with Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.”

This elicited a response from Lord Wallace of Saltaire as follows:

“My Lords, the UK follows closely the situation of the San communities in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. We will continue to encourage dialogue between the San communities and the Government of Botswana, and we raise the issue at appropriate levels. We welcome the Government of Botswana’s announcement that they will respect and facilitate the implementation of the recent decision of the court of appeal granting San community members the right to access and sink boreholes within the reserve.”

Lord Pearson then put his supplementary:

“My Lords, that is, of course, good news. However, as the Government of Botswana have overridden court judgments in the past, do Her Majesty’s Government accept that we have perhaps a special responsibility in this matter, because we did, after all, give Botswana its constitution in 1966, and it has been consistently abused? Will the Government, as the noble Lord has indicated, pay particular attention to making sure that the Bushmen have free access to their reserve, to their water supply and, indeed, to new boreholes?”

And then Lord Wallace went in for the kill (like a predator in  the Central Kalahari Game Reserve):

“My Lords, I am not sure that the Government accept that the constitution has been consistently abused, but I welcome the noble Lord’s support for this ethnic minority and its culture, for his vigorous support for the international human rights regime and his insistence that human rights obligations limit state sovereignty. I also congratulate him on his support for the rule of law as a limiting factor on majoritarian democracy, and I am sure that he will hold true to all these principles in his approach to the EU Bill next week. I particularly welcome his reference to the ruling of the Botswana appeal court, which the Botswana Government have clearly accepted. As he will know, the court is, unusually, composed of foreign judges. The judgment is signed by two South African judges and one each from Ghana, Lesotho and Zimbabwe, the last of whom is called McNally. I am glad that the noble Lord recognises that foreign judges can reinforce domestic standards of human rights.”

So courteous: ” I welcome the noble Lord’s ….. vigorous support for the international human rights regime and his insistence that human rights obligations limit state sovereignty.”

Then the stiletto: ” I also congratulate him on his support for the rule of law as a limiting factor on majoritarian democracy, and I am sure that he will hold true to all these principles in his approach to the EU Bill next week.”

And for good measure: “As he will know, the court is, unusually, composed of foreign judges. ….. I am glad that the noble Lord recognises that foreign judges can reinforce domestic standards of human rights.”

Squelch, squelch, and squelch again!

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