Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 19 August 2010

There is not enough aid money being pledged to help the people of Pakistan, despite the appalling pictures of this truly shocking disaster. Intelligent people are scratching their heads and wondering why the response is so sluggish. Is it just compassion fatigue? I don't think so.
In these tough times people, rightly or wrongly, are sick of supporting people who won't help themselves. Whether it is now widespread anger over people ripping us off in the benefit system or intolerance towards corrupt governments around the world, good, responsible people have had enough. There is a feeling among many that Pakistan is still rife with corruption at every level of government and that it is ambivalent towards tackling the Islamic terrorism that percolates freely in that part of the world. In times of plenty, maybe we turned a blind eye to these shortcomings, but not any more. We want to see robust action on both of these fronts.
Many people are also concerned that too much militant Islam is exported to our shores from Pakistan with an agenda to change our culture and we don't like that much either.
The tragedy is that the ordinary folks on the ground, especially the children, are utterly innocent in these transgressions and they are suffering. They are not terrorists or asylum seekers or zealots. They are just people hurting. The sight of whole communities swept away is heart-breaking and the threat of disease is very real. It is wrong to punish the poorest in their society for the faults of the ruling classes and the religious bigots.
It would help if the British Government was taking a more robust line with the government of Pakistan and countries like it on our behalf. That is why I welcomed David Cameron's recent tough comments and why I am glad that much more of our overseas aid is now linked to performance and results. It has taken a harsher global economic climate for us to stop pussyfooting around with failing states but the change in attitude is now welcome.
So what should we do? First, we should give help generously to the people of Pakistan in this crisis. Second we should make all future aid dependent upon action on corruption and terrorism. Third, although we should reinforce the principle of religious freedom in Britain and celebrate the contribution that all communities make, we should also ensure that the tail does not wag the dog.

posted by Gary @ 08:32