Opinion: Why the government’s inquisition must be boycotted

By Toyin Agbetu | Thu 1 September 2011

The extra judicial killing of Mark Duggan by the police was the spark for London Uprisings, 2011

Toyin Agbetu shares his thoughts on the governments riot ‘victims’ inquiry and suggests that non-compliance with the rigged political process is the best way to ensure grass roots voices feed effective solutions.

Greetings, And so it begins, another inquiry is launched, this time it’s so watered down there is no point even pretending it has the power of compulsion afforded a true public inquiry.

No, instead the government’s official investigation into the causes of the recent uprisings and riots will pay lip service to the extra judicial killing of Mark Duggan by the police and instead focus on testimony of the victims, after that a cursory glance will be given to the causes and perhaps if the allocated time and money has not been exhausted some... cough, cough... solutions... or cough, cough... ‘recommendations’.

Indeed, Liberal Democrat and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg claims;

“Only by listening to people who have been affected by the riots - the victims - will we ever be able to move on and rebuild for the long term... These victims, who stood side by side and refused to be beaten by the senseless destruction, hold the key to how residents, shopkeepers, parents, young people and communities can move on.”

In earlier times the phrase western historians used to describe the process of gathering and giving extra weight to evidence of victims and public accusers ignorant of facts was a witch-hunt. Today, most people prefer the more accurate phrase white wash, as in to permit injustice by washing away Truth in a sea of ‘white’ lies.

No doubt some of my critics will accuse me of being harsh. Many will bray “let them get on with it and judge them on the results”. I respond to them with the answer that history is capable of not only being a judge but also a guide. We have been here before and in those circumstances similar stunts have been successfully used to deflect blame from those responsible for inequitable social stratification leading to mass civil unrest. It would be foolish to pretend otherwise, perhaps even suicidal to expect less.

But let’s try and be objective and look at the composition of the proposed inquiry panel.

Clegg who announced that “This will be a grass roots review – we want to know what happened at street level, not from afar and only from the perspective of those affected.” has named the so called ‘grass roots’ panel that will lead the inquiry. He has also given them a November deadline to deliver their first verdict.

The chair will be the renown community activist Darra Singh, the human rights activist and leading barrister Simon Marcus QC, the educationalist and community youth worker Maeve Sherlock and finally a widely respected spokesperson for the young generation the imitable, Heather Rabbatts.

A rich and diverse mix of gender, ethnicity with multigenerational input for balance.

Sounds great right?

Until you realise that other than their names, I just made the whole lot up. In fact I suspect you’re wondering why you’ve never have heard of any of these “grassroots” panellists as that Politician of Integrity, Nick Clegg announced.
Well perhaps it’s because Darra Singh OBE who in 2006 was the chair of the UK government's Commission for Integration and Cohesion is on record as stating that the blending of ethnicity and faith with a sense of Britishness (i.e. assimilation) is the key to building community spirit.

In fact when asked about his own mothers inability to speak much English he said “I think it is certainly a truism that if you want to get on, you have to speak the language of the country that you live in,”

Singh who became infamous for earning more than the Prime Minister, is one of an elite number of civil servants who in 2006-7 was ranked amongst the ten highest paid council executive in the country, earning a grass roots level of enumeration at £195,456 pa.

Simon Marcus is not a QC but instead the Tory candidate who in 2010 beat the BNP into 3rd place in an election in Barking. He’s also the co-founder of a Boxing Academy based in Tottenham and Hackney that works in partnership with the police. He writes;

“People blame the police, but how about all the attacks on ambulance drivers, nurses and firemen every week? Even the park keeper where I go running has been stabbed and beaten up. Walk a mile in a policeman’s shoes and then criticize. People blame poverty, housing, unemployment, but millions are suffering in these hard times and they don’t riot or loot or mug or kill. And they rely on the police and do not see them as enemies, like so many of their self-appointed community leaders... Punishments must be handed out, respect for authority restored, and childhood returned to our children. Our future as a nation depends on it. If this involves scrapping more quangoes, teaching schools to use the powers they have to discipline pupils, and laying off bureaucrats, then so be it.”

Thankfully he hasn’t formed his views about the culpability of the state.

While I’m coming clean about the history of our ‘grass roots’ panel I may as well admit that we have another member of the British Empire on board in the name of Maeve Sherlock OBE. Oh in fact that’s not quite right because she’s now a fully paid up member of the establishment and is formally known as Baroness Sherlock after being made a life peer. She also has the dubious distinction of being a commissioner for the thoroughly inept Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHCR) chaired by our brother Trevor Phillips.

Grass-roots enough yet?

Then let me continue, whilst the Jamaican born Heather Rabbatts CBE may have experience in running diverse bodies from football clubs (the multicultural embracing Millwall FC) to various London councils (Hammersmith and Fulham, Merton and Lambeth Councils) she as well as the others are hardly qualified to adjudicate on issues affecting young people.

Now don’t get me wrong, those chosen to sit on this panel maybe very nice people. However it should be obvious to even the densest of ConDem sympathisers that their ability to conduct a “grass roots review” with a stated remit to focus on the opinions of the “victims beaten by... senseless destruction,” is about as impartial as Famer Jones promising to give serious consideration to the views of turkeys when deciding whether the festive celebration of Christmas should be abolished.

The results of the inquiry is fixed and the evidence of any turkey participating in the process will either be highlighted as caveats or used to support the pre-determined conclusion/verdict by an alleged ‘grass roots’ jury of our peers.

The Government ‘grass roots’ riot inquiry panel : Darra Singh OBE, Heather Rabbatts CBE, ‘Baroness’ Sherlock and Simon Marcus

Collective Boycott

In a recent brief exchange of correspondence between myself and Bro. Professor Gus John it was agreed that we should collectively boycott such processes where we chat and drink tea with those who would see nothing wrong in denying us fundamental rights and yet are still brazen enough to “depend upon us to come and sit round the table with them to validate what they are doing and intend to do still further with our communities as their prime target.”

He is right.

You see when in 2009 Darra Singh OBE chaired The Serious Youth Violence Board, he vowed that it will not merely be a “talking shop” and said the key measure of success will be if crime statistics begin to fall. Singh who claimed that he intended to build on the work of the Gangs, Guns and Weapons Board and the London Youth Crime Prevention Board said;

"I don't want to be involved in a body that gets together and talks but at the end of the meeting nothing happens,"

Yet despite Operation Blunt, Operation Trident, Operation Blunt 2, racist abuse of section 44 anti-terrorism legislation, weapon amnesties, huge procedural abuse of section 60 stop and search powers, clampdowns, aggressive & invasive stop and search tactics and longer jail terms.

All have failed.

And when you consider the facts, analyse the history and apply logic to a situation that keeps re-occurring – the use of the same tired tactics to effect change become exposed not as a viable solution to our ailments but instead manifestations of the problem itself.

Toyin Agbetu is a writer, film director, poet, and founder of Ligali, the pan African human rights based organisation.

Toyin Agbetu

External Links
UK riots inquiry panel named by Nick Clegg
Victims panel may take evidence from rioters
Riot communities and victims panel announced
Simon Marcus: Listen to the children

Ligali is not responsible for the content of third party sites

Opinion: State Repression - After the Insurrection

Speak Out!

Do you have confidence in the governments ‘grass roots’ inquiry of identifying attainable solutions? Should the community engage with or boycott the inquisition?
Click here to speak out or read (1) comments about this article
In earlier times the phrase western historians used to describe the process of gathering and giving extra weight to evidence of victims and public accusers ignorant of facts was a witch-hunt. Today, most people prefer the more accurate phrase white wash.

Toyin Agbetu, The Ligali Organisation

See Related:

Get involved and help change our world