Socialist Worker

Army of equal opportunities?

Issue No. 1827

AN EMPLOYMENT tribunal has been hearing shocking allegations of brutal and racist bullying in the British army. Timur Kalayaci had lived all his life in Hackney, east London. Like many people in Hackney he is of Turkish background. He is also a Muslim. He joined the army, believing all the propaganda about serving queen and country, and the image of 'equal opportunities' the army has pushed in recent years.

Kalayaci joined the elite Parachute Regiment and was earmarked as possible 'officer material'. He was, however, discharged from the army in September after doctors diagnosed him as suffering from severe stress. The employment tribunal in Norwich has been hearing Kalayaci's claims that he was subject to months of racist abuse and threats orchestrated by his superiors in the army.

On one occasion he says he was headbutted by a fellow soldier. Another time he says a sergeant held a knife to his throat. He says he was regularly called 'nigger', 'Paki' and 'coon'. He says a corporal threw a bottle of correction fluid at him and said, 'You're not British. Go and put this over your body.'

He made an official complaint to the army after one of his tormentors, he claims, made two attempts to run him over. Other problems, says Kalayaci, stemmed from his religion:

'Despite the policies of religious tolerance propounded in the army's leaflets, I experienced many difficulties in getting halal meals. Chefs either burnt my meals or failed to prepare them. I was never issued with halal ration packs, although the MoD leaflet clearly states that they are 'readily available'.'

The army denies the claims and the tribunal was continuing. Is this the sort of force to 'bring peace' to Muslim peoples in places like Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq?


Scanning shambles scandal

CONSULTANTS fighting over their lucrative private practice in an NHS hospital lay behind a scandal slammed by an official government watchdog last week. Barnet and Chase Farm NHS Trust in London had a backlog of 2,700 ultrasound scans. Some patients were waiting up to 19 months for scans. The official Commission for Health Improvement labelled this a 'chaotic shambles'.

'Referrals were not processed, patients were not told of the delays, and experienced pain and anxiety,' said the commission. 'Disputes between consultants about the distribution of private practice,' were the root causes of the ultrasound delays, said the commission.

New Labour is, of course, encouraging even more such mixing of private and public in the NHS. How terribly modern.


EXAMINING board Edexcel's annual report boasts that last January's A and AS level examinations 'were the most successful ever'. That's not quite how the students whose lives were made a misery by a string of blunders in those exams by Edexcel will recall things. Even Tony Blair's Downing Street office was forced at the time to brand Edexcel 'sloppy'.


Losing a mint

SOCIALIST Worker's manager of the month award goes to Gerald Sheehan, who heads the Royal Mint. The Royal Mint prints money, but is now losing it for the first time in its history.

Sheehan was summoned to a House of Commons committee to explain how the mint had managed to lose £18.5 million, including £25,680 in used notes which disappeared from a safe at the mint.

Sheehan was until recently the manager of steel firm ASW, which went bust earlier this year leaving its workers without their pensions. Fortunately for Sheehan he managed to take his £60,000 pension money out of the firm a few months before it went bust.


Perfect timing for scare stories

TONY BLAIR issued dire warnings last week about a new terrorist threat to Britain. The papers were full of lurid stories about a supposed threat to smuggle a dirty bomb on a cross-Channel ferry. Yet Blair was forced to admit later that there was not a shred of evidence for any of the claims.

The government conceded that its own security services had advised it that a supposed warning about a vague 'maritime threat' was not credible. 'There is no specific intelligence to suggest there is a threat,' a government official was forced to admit. What about the supposed 'ferry' threat? The Department of Transport soon had to concede:

'We do not assess that there is any credible information or intelligence in support' of the story. Scotland Yard's special police 'terror' unit added that there had been no change whatever in its 'risk assessment level' of any possible terrorist attack on Britain for at least the last three years.

Why do Blair and the press want to whip up a terror scare despite this lack of evidence? Call us cynical if you want but, as they say, 'it is no coincidence' that this all came as the preparation for war on Iraq continued. And the warnings were also on the eve of the firefighters' strike.


BEWARE of 'former' this and thats popping up on TV around the firefighters' dispute. The BBC ran an item last week about 'nurses' opposing the firefighters. The evidence for this was a letter from a mysterious 'former nurse'. Not a nurse at all, then.

Sky News came up with a 'former firefighter' on its coverage. True, the man in question, Mike Penning, was indeed a former firefighter. Sky could, perhaps, have told viewers what Penning's current job was. He is a press officer for Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.


EDUCATION MINISTER Margaret Hodge has just appointed some new faces to the Adult Learning Inspectorate, the equivalent of the Ofsted schools inspectors for technical colleges and vocational courses. One is Peter McKee, who is retiring as a director of the Raytheon missile manufacturing firm.

The other is Balvidner Chana, projects manager for privatised rail firm First Great Western. Just the kind of people you'd trust to look after education.


Things they say

'KICK THEIR ass, steal their gas.'
Car bumper sticker in pro-Republican area of Boondocks, US

'THE AMOUNT of kit and servants he takes around is grotesque.'
Queen on Prince Charles

'THE Queen Mother's people in particular were ruthless at getting down prices or obtaining supplies for nothing.'
Palace employee on how royals grab freebies in return for royal warrants

'THE principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programmes has always been the US. Close to 80 percent of the USAID contracts and grants go directly to American firms.'
US International Development Agency website

'IT'S NO use pretending this is a molehill. It's Everest.'
Tory MP Archie Norman on the Tories

'THEY were talking about highly criminal acts. One cell leader was discussing how to saw the leg off an electricity pylon.'
Spokesman for the militant Real Countryside Alliance, on the group's plans to respond to a hunting ban

'A MOTLEY group of hardline left wingers among trade union leaders - Marxists, Trotskyists, Socialist Workers and Scargillites - is determined to humble the government or see it defeated at the polls.'
Joe Haines, former aide to Harold Wilson

'THERE'S just sooo much to see and do out there that I know you guys are gonna have a great trip.'
Petty Oofficer Chris Sherwood, taking visitors to the US's notorious Guantanamo Bay prison camp


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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 23 Nov 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1827
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