UK Minister of State: Yemen has the potential to be a very great country [Archives:2006/915/Front Page]

January 26 2006

Nadia al-Sakkaf
SANA'A, Jan. 25 – “There is no real democracy in the world without promoting freedom of press.” Dr. Kim Howells, British MP and the Middle East Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, stated in a brief press conference last Tuesday. Dr. Howells, who was an editor and researcher for the South Wales Miner and a television and radio writer and presenter in 1989, emphasised on the important role of media in development of societies. “For a transparent and open society a demorcatic government must not shackle the press.” About the United Kingdom's promotion of freedom of press in Yemen, Dr. Howells said: “In my meetings with the Yemeni government officials, I have made my views very clear regarding freedom of press. There are certain signals that indicate how democratic a country is and the freedom of press is one of those signals.”

The British Minister had left Sana'a on Wednesday after a three-day visit to the country in which he met with various government officials as well as activists and media personalities. His discussions with officials included regional as well as local issues such as Yemen's role in the African Horn, war against terrorism, development and freedom of press in Yemen. British assistance to Yemen ranges from training of national security and maritime guards in fighting terrorism as well as promoting development programs in literacy, women's health and building government capacity. In this regard Dr. Howells said: “Fighting terrorism is not only done through military and security training, we believe that reducing poverty and enhancing the living of people in all aspects is vital in fighting terrorism. During my visit I have met with many promising Yemenis who are dedicated to making democracy successful in Yemen. And I believe that Yemen has the potential to be a very great country not only benefiting itself but the whole world as well.”

Commenting on the recent Somali refugees' crises in Yemen, Dr. Howells explained that Britain supports Yemen in fighting terrorism and is adamant on training maritime guards on how to fight the terrorist gangs who smuggle refugees across the boarders. Efforts are made to train coastal guards to rescue those refugees and take them back before they are harmed. Dr. Howells explained that Yemen has two concerns in this matter; the first is a humanitarian concern being the destination of a huge influx of refugees coming from the African Horn. And the second is an economic concern because Yemen as such is still a developing country with a fragile economy. However, he added that this issue is not just limited to Yemen and there are other examples around the world such as the Cuban immigrants to North America, Moroccans to Spain tc.

When asked whether the UK government is considering sending Abu Hamza for trail in Yemen, he said: “Abu Hamza would rather make use of the British free justice and British commitment to the Human Rights Codes than be sent to other countries for trail.” Dr. Howells confirmed that Abu Hamza is receiving a fair trail witnessed and reported by free press. “Although we hate the violent culture preached by this person we must ensure that he is entitled to excellent representation and receives a fair trial as a human being.” Dr. Howells concluded.

Dr. Howells is a BA, degree holder from Hornsey College of Art. CAT, Cambridge University. And compelted his PhD from Warwick University. Before entering Parliament as MP for Pontypridd following a by-election in 1989, he was Editor and Researcher for the South Wales Miner and a television and radio writer and presenter. In 2004 Dr. Howells was Minister of Higher Education. Before that he was Transport minister 2003-4 and from 2001 to 2003 he was Culture minister 2001-03. Previously Dr. Howells was a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, DTI (1998 – 2001) and DfEE (1997 – 1998). Born in 1946 in Merthyr Tydfil, Dr. Howells is married with three children.