Chief Reporter Lovemore Mataire
BRITAIN'S bid to host next year's 110th International Parliamentary Union (IPU) assembly and bar Zimbabwe from attending the meeting flopped last week in Geneva, Switzerland.
The union's governing council voted against Britain's decision to exclude delegations from Zimbabwe who are on the European Union travel ban list at its Geneva meeting.
At least 132 countries voted for the inclusion of Zimbabwe while 87 supported Britain's proposal to host the meeting.
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Cde Patrick Chinamasa, who led Zimbabwe's delegation to the meeting confirmed the rejection of Britain's bid to host the meeting.
Some of the countries that voted in support of Zimbabwe included Canada, France, Belgium, India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and all the African and Caribbean countries except Botswana which decided to break ranks with the African group and abstained from voting despite having raised no objections during the group's caucus meeting.
Botswana's three representatives were reportedly jeered by fellow African countries and had to leave the assembly building in a huff, embarrassed by the outcome of the vote.
Cde Chinamasa said the IPU governing council first granted Britain the right to host the assembly on the premise that it was to abide by the union's rules and regulations, which among other things allow the unconditional granting of visas to member countries' representatives.
However, Britain later informed the IPU secretary-general Mr Anders Johnson that it would not guarantee the issuance of visas to Zimbabwean officials on the list of the EU travel ban.
"What this meant was that the Zimbabwean Parliament would only send members who were acceptable to the British, which basically mean that the delegation would only have MDC members as senior members of Zanu-PF are on the EU travel ban list," said Cde Chinamasa.
Cde Chinamasa said Britain had to force debate on the matter when members failed to agree on the proposal not to issue visas to Zimbabwean officials on the travel ban list.
The African group immediately convened a caucus meeting and took a position to support Zimbabwe and resolved to boycott the next meeting if the country was excluded.
A decision was taken to oppose any attempts to hold the meeting in London as a mark of solidarity with Zimbabwe.
When the matter was put to debate, Australia and Ireland vouched for Britain's bid and disparaged Zimbabwe's human rights record and even criticised Zimbabwe's Speaker of Parliament, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa who usually leads Zimbabwe's delegations at such meetings.
"I opposed Australia and Ireland's allegations. I spoke against the notion to exclude Zimbabwe in defence of the constitution of the IPU and our country's rights and privileges which entitle us to participate fully in such international meetings and that Britain's proposal was an attempt to deny the country that full participation," said Cde Chinamasa.
He said IPU was principally set up to promote dialogue and allow interaction among members.
Cde Chinamasa said he also chronicled the human rights abuses committed by some of the Western nations and that it was unfortunate some countries like Britain and the US had taken it upon themselves to be the policemen of the world in monitoring human rights abuses.
He said as a sovereign nation, Zimbabwe had the right to choose its own representatives to attend international meetings.
"I drew parallels to what is happening in Palestine where the big powers have arrogated themselves the powers of who should lead Palestine," he said.
The "NO" bid against London triumphed against the "YES" when the results of the vote were announced prompting celebrations by the African group delegations.
The majority members rejected London's bid to host the meeting and noted that its decision to isolate Zimbabwe was motivated by racism and flouted the union's rules and regulations.
The next IPU meeting will now be held in Thailand early next year.
Cde Chinamasa said the results showed the understanding by most countries of the correctness of the country's position against that of Britain.
He said most countries were now aware that the issue between Zimbabwe and Britain was purely a bilateral matter and that it was a colonial question that the latter was trying to internationalise to thwart the land reform programme.
He said the mood among developing countries was that colonialism and imperialism was still in the minds of the British and the Americans given their recent invasion of Iraq.
"There was a general feeling that these phenomena are no longer theoretical and the US and Britain's involvement in Iraq proved that they had no respect for the sovereignty of small countries."
In pursuance of their economic interests, Britain and the US would not hesitate to invade other countries under the false pretext of wanting to liberate the citizens of those countries, said Cde Chinamasa.
He said developing nations were now aware of the need for unity to garner strength to confront the threat posed by Britain and the US.
The IPU is a grouping of parliaments in various countries of the world and countries apply for membership to join the union.
The IPU holds meetings twice annually during the first and second half of the year.
Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland and any country can bid to host the two meetings.
The rules and regulations of the assembly stipulate the granting of visas unconditionally to delegations of member countries.
Other members of the Zimbabwe delegation were Zanu-PF chief whip Cde Joram Gumbo and MDC's Ms Thokozani Khupe.
Each country had a maximum of three delegates including opposition Members of Parliament. http://www.herald.co.zw/index.php?id=25380&pubdate=2003-10-07