19 October 97
British Prime Minister Tony Blair last week met Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein,
the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Belfast to talk peace.
He became the second British leader in 70 years to meet with a senior leader of the
Irish Republican movement which wants to end British rule in North Ireland or Ulster.
In 1921, Lloyd George met Michael Collins, the IRA commander.
I like the Irish and Ireland - a jolly people. I have visited both the South and
North several times. I do hope both sides would be reconciled. It does appear to
me that both sides are quite determined to find an equitable and just solution.
It was said by many people that the English language brings out the best in the Irish.
However, people have always found the Irish a bit odd - they refuse to be English!
The Conservative Party and protestant loyalists who want North Ireland to remain
as part of Britain attacked Blair for breaking the 70-year taboo, but not a few British
commentators seem to think that Blair could afford to ignore the criticism because
Blair's popularity is so high and the British desire to withdraw from the Irish quagmire
is strong, that his efforts to push for peace would likely win the support of the
majority of the British people.
Said Paul Rogers, an expert on Northern Ireland, at the University Bradford: "Blair
is so popular and is trusted enough right now that he won't run into any serious
criticism. Moreover, Blair is pushing Adams into a corner and Adams is responding,
with more conciliatory comments. He is putting the onus on Adams to deliver."
I do not believe that Protestants' sneer and insolence will faze Blair in his quest
for an honourable peace!
Adams has been criticised for failing to denounce IRA violence but he did call for
a ceasefire to confer with Blair who told him that "if you don't seize the opportunity
(for peace) now, we may not see it again in my lifetime."
Once, Adams had said: "For us the British Parliament is as foreign as the French
Parliament, the Japanese Diet, or the American Senate." He was elected a member
of British Parliament in 1983 but he never took up his seat in Westminister in London.
I also like the British and, having lived in England for many years, I pray that
the seemingly good prospects for peace would endure and that agreements are concluded
long before the deadline set by Blair (May next year) for the multi-party negotiations
to agree to a new constitutional settlement: Separate referendums to be put to the
people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (Eire) before being approved
by the British Parliament.
The tasks are not easy: an internal settlement of Northern Ireland, involvement of
Dublin in the affairs of the North and Anglo-Irish inter government co-operation.
The first is difficult for IRA as it enshrines partition; the second is unacceptable
to the loyalists as they believe it is the first step towards a United Ireland.
If nothing occurs following the historic meeting between Blair and Adams, the IRA
will resume its military campaign leaving Blair only with two options; either together
with Dublin impose a settlement or abandon the process which has bedeviled all its
All this reminds me of what India's first Prime Minister Jawarhalal Nehru once said:
that the only alternative to co-existence is co-destruction.
The United States is a polyglot of nations - the Hispanics being most of these
nationalities, and many Hispanic parents want the initiative to force government
school classes to be only conducted in English. However, some in the community see
such an effort as a threat to their mother tongue.
There was one Hispanic child who started kindergarten class with children who spoke
Spanish and a teacher who taught mostly in Spanish. The result: After five years,
the child couldn't speak English well, while, another Hispanic child who started
kindergarten in an English-only class is fluent in English. The parents teach him
Spanish at home.
The overall result, according to Reverend Alice Callaghan, who works with immigrant
children in Los Angeles, is: "These children are as bright as any children in
Beverly Hills, but they are not going to Harvard or Yale because their English is
Using Callaghan, I rest my case.
In any event, Ungku Aziz, Adibah Amin, Dato' Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Dato' Seri
Anwar Ibrahim all went to English-medium schools but none seems to have suffered
in any way.
Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the
(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun