Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Banzai, You Mean Bastards

It would be nice if I could, just once, read the day's news without becoming hopelessly angry, but it's impossible. It's not so much the big intractable issues - the Iraq War, global warming, terrorism, North Korea's alarming nuclear test - as the small daily injustices perpetrated against innocent people everywhere that get me wound up.

One of my personal heroes, the late Jack Edwards, who was for a time a neighbour of mine, devoted his life after World War Two to fighting for adequate recognition and recompense for the Far East Prisoners of War who suffered appallingly inhumane treatment at the hands of their Japanese captors. His 55 years of effort were finally rewarded with apparent success in the year 2000, when the British government set up a £167m compensation fund for the surviving FEPoWs and their dependants (by then many had already conveniently died, often prematurely as a consequence of their wartime experiences; indeed a quarter of them did not survive their captivity).

So, a belated happy ending for once. Except it now turns out that, even in the midst of their apparent generosity, the British government shamefully decided that 2,400 of those who were imprisoned for the crime of being British were not quite British enough to benefit (presumably on account of the same racist stupidity that saw the great comic genius Spike Milligan stripped of his British passport even though he was wounded fighting in the British Army in the same war, but that's another story).

As 83-year-old Diana Elias eloquently explains , "Despite me being British all my life, despite my family's details being handed over to the invading Japanese troops in 1941 because we were all British, despite us being interned in Stanley Camp for four years because we were British, despite me facing the consequences both in the camp and for the rest of my life because I was British, I was not, and I am still not, quite British enough in the eyes of the Ministry of Defence. That is because I do not have what it calls a 'bloodlink' to the UK. I do not have a bloodlink because I was not born here [Elias was born in Hong Kong but now lives in Britain] and neither were my parents or my grandparents. If you have no bloodlink, then you are another type of British. A second class type of British. A type of British whose suffering and rights do not matter one bit."

All I can say is I hope Diana Elias wins her court case, and I really hope that the relentless spirit of Jack Edwards (who passed away earlier this year) will haunt every last one of the mean-minded bureaucrats who denied her, and others in the same position, what they should have received years ago.

And don't even get me started on present day Japan's continued refusal to face up to its past atrocities...

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