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Put people before profit, bishop tells Isle of Man govt: The Church of England Newspaper, July 29, 2011 p 4. August 1, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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Bishop Robert Paterson

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Sodor and Man has pressed the Isle of Man to give precedence to freedom and democracy over banking profits in its relations with overseas governments.

On 12 July Bishop Robert Paterson tabled a question before the Manx legislature, the Tynwald, urging Chief Minister Tony Brown to reconsider the double-taxation treaty signed with Bahrain earlier this year in light of the Gulf state’s violent suppression of human rights.

In a statement given to the BBC last week, Bishop Paterson stated thata number of people in Bahrain have been treated very badly in recent times and so I thought this is something the Isle of Man government ought to think about again.”

The ‘Arab Spring’ has seen the collapse of authoritarian governments in Egypt and Tunisia, protests in Syria and has spread to Bahrain. February protests calling for the ouster of King Hamad bin al-Khalifa were violently suppressed and martial law declared on 15 March.

On 21 April Foreign Secretary William Hague released a statement voicing concern “at events in Bahrain.”

There continue to be “many credible reports of human rights abuses,” Mr Hague said, and the “arrests of opposition figures, the reports of deaths in custody, allegations of torture and the denial of medical treatment, are extremely troubling.”

Bishop Paterson told the BBC that it while it was “very unlikely I will persuade the Chief Minister to end connections with Bahrain, the point is just simply to say that this is an issue and I hope the government just won’t simply go along the line that says that as long as financially everything is good for the island, then everything is OK — because that is not always the case.”

Following the declaration of martial law, Bishop Paterson pushed for a 90-day delay in ratifying the tax treaty — but was defeated by the government. Last week he submitted a question to the government asking for an explanation for its continued ties to the sheikdom.

On 12 July the chief minister Tony Brown responded the Isle of Man would not void the tax treaty with the Bahrain, though the government was “very responsive to the actions of the international community in general, and the United Kingdom in particular.”

However it would urge King Hamid and his government to “meet all of its human rights obligations and uphold political freedoms, and to carry out investigations into alleged abuses by Bahraini security forces.”

“We welcome the King of Bahrain’s announcement this month to establish an independent commission to look into allegations of human rights abuses, and his commitment to a national dialogue with groups across the country,” Mr Brown said.