Charity Commission must intervene to give back Kurdish Cultural Centre to Kurdish community in London
Kurdishaspect.com - By Dr. Kamal Mirawdeli
Yesterday following appeals from many respectable leaders and representatives of Kurdish community in London I sent an urgent letter to the Charity Commission in London asking them to intervene in the current crisis of Kurdish cultural Centre (KCC) and ensure that this year’s annual general meeting (AGM) and elections will be free and fair and in accordance with the robust democratic regulations of the British law as stipulated in the Companies Act 2006, the Companies Act 1989, the Charity Commission’s regulations and the tradition of fairness, good practice and equal opportunity which are characteristic of the British democratic system. My letter followed a petition signed by 457 original members of KCC which was handed to the Commission on 23 April 2007 asking them to stop violations of law by a party political group who they say staged “a coup d'état like operation where they hired professional bouncers and security guards” to hijack their community centre. Former KCC managers have provided the Charity Commission with the details of this coup d'état and the acts of intimidation and irregularities in its aftermath.
The present concern of the Kurdish community and KCC members stem from illegal and unconstitutional maneuvers followed by the current political-party controlled management committee to ensure that they remain in control of the centre in defiance to the wishes and interests of the Kurdish community and the democratic procedures and requirements of the British law and the KCC constitution itself.
The last AGM and elections of the KC, where a political party surprised the community by their heavy-handed coup, took place on 7 October 2007. Having failed to hold AGM within the maximum allowed legal time of 15 months, as specified in the organization’s Constitution, KCC committee first informed the members that this year’s AGM would be held on 15 March 2009 and gave only two weeks to the members to renew their membership (that is to pay membership fee again). As KCC members started to organize themselves and renew their membership to attend the elections and vote for a non-partisan committee, the MC unexpectedly and without consultation wit the members sent another undated letter received by KCC members, including myself, on 11 March 2009. In this letter they say that the elections are postponed to 3 May 2009. Their reason for this is that KCC membership had, in less than a month if we accept their logic, increased from 100-150 members to 1004 members. Anyone with slightest knowledge of KCC knows that KCC has never had less than 500 members. If this is correct that KCC had only 100-150 members in February 2009 when they sent the first AGM notice, this shows that perhaps the membership had declined after the coup. The community gives another explanation for the swelling of the membership to 1004. Traditional members of KCC have renewed their membership in order to attend this year’s AGM and reclaim their community centre. On the other hand, they provide substantiated evidence that party cadres of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have been busy contacting their own members trying to coerce or entice them to subscribe to KCC membership and attend the elections. There is a talk of cash rewards to cover travel expenses and staying in London. But it seems that these desperate tactics have not worked. PUK, the political party engaged in this ignoble coup, has itself been reduced both in London and in Kurdistan into a family cartel losing tens of thousands of supporters and sympathizers. In London, a silent coup was enacted against the legitimate PUK organization many years ago and it was turned into a strict family business. Therefore, it seems that PUK has not been able to rely on its membership to support their continued usurpation of KCC. It seems that they have imported the democratic model they use in south Kurdistan, inherited from Ba’th party principles and practices, to ensure their success. By doing so they have in fact introduced an ‘innovation’’ in the practice of democratic elections in Britain!! This is the unique innovation which I think PUK should apply for legal patent to ensure its unique ownership: the current KCC management committee have sent a letter on 22nd April 2009, informing the members to go individually to KCC to elect the next management committee on 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th April, while the actual AGM for conducting the formal business of the organization is to take place on 3rd May! I have lived in this country for over two decades and worked within the British democratic institutional system and have not encountered such innovative procedure to facilitate democratic participation. So where are the elements of innovation?
1. In all the countries of the world elections , even those in which tens of millions voters participate, happen within one day only, if there is need the elections time is extended by one or two hours. KCC management committee are so generous they give four days to enable few hundred members to cast their votes!
2. In all traditions and its legal requirements as stipulated in the charities’ and charitable companies’ constitutions and memoranda, AGM and elections happen in one day. The previous committee would present their financial, administrative and activities’ reports for debate and approval by members. And then elections will take place after completing this part of the agenda. According to the KCC Constitutions third of the membership will have to retire and new members have to declare their candidacy in person to win votes and be elected at the AGM.
3. Companies’ Law and KCC Constitution in line with it, provide clear procedures for conducting AGM and the elections which should happen in the same day. The committee which will supervise the elections has to be elected or approved by AGM and the identities of the candidates have to be verified.
4. By allowing four days for elections of management committee members which allows the re-election of all the current committee members without being made accountable for their terms in office and by making every voter elect the committee in front of the current committee members, KCC committee are in fact introducing an important element of Ba’thist style elections where the voters are watched by the wide-opening eyes of security forces and intimidated to vote to the party candidates.
5. What will happen to the voting papers over four days and nights? Where will they be kept overnight and daytime? What are guarantees for their safety and not been tampered with?
6. Kurdish community is a close-knit community whereas it is not impossible for a group of ten people to, among them, identify almost anyone. This allows current committee members to, over the four days allocated for the elections, identify non-party members who vote for different candidates if not of course having access afterwards to actual voting papers. This works both to intimidate people, and to give time an opportunity to recruit and entice more of their supporters to vote in the coming days.
7. In these four days, once a new management committee is elected, the old committee should retire and it will have no authority to hold AGM on 3 May 2009! So who will organise and conduct AGM on 3 May 2009? Why? How?
That this anomaly happens in London is a testimony to the democratic and intellectual credentials of PUK party dynasty. If this is their democratic practice and knowledge and respect of the rule of law in London, God protect our oppressed people in Kurdistan who have been entrapped in the vicious circle of political parties’ corruption and abuse of power. In fact their desperation to maintain control over a small community centre in London, while their leader is the President of Iraq and their party have turned Kurdistan region into a fiefdom ruled and plundered by the joint cartel of Barzani and Talabani families, is the sign of their nervousness about losing the coming elections in Kurdistan region, when for the first time after 18 years of unopposed oppressive corrupt family rule, there are new popular groups entering elections and enjoying massive popular support. They are nervous about the signal that might be given to the oppressed people in Kurdistan: that the way the Kurdish community in London can through their democratic participation end illegal, illegitimate family dynastic control, they can do the same in Kurdistan. ‘Yes, we can!” : this is the message that they want to suppress through the importation of Ba’thist –style party political elections to London!
I had the honour to be a founder member of KCC and its first elected chair for two terms and then its first director for three years. During that period KCC developed into a vibrant centre for Kurdish community from all parts of Kurdistan and bought its own building to become a permanent focal point for the community and their activities. Sine then KCC has suffered from the interference of tribal Kurdish parties. The lowest point of its history was the coup of October 2007. It is time now that the community has been enabled to reclaim their Centre through legitimate legal democratic procedures and elections. The Charity Commission should respond positively to the petition by the KCC members and support them to do this in order to uphold the noble British traditions of robust democracy and the rule of law against odd primitive tribal anti-democratic tendencies and practices.