I can see some of my relatives, friends and critics cringing even as I begin to write this story. “Will he do it? Would he dare? Would Junior Campbell even consider such an arguably self-serving exposé? Surely he will see how such extreme claims as he is contemplating here could make him seem deluded! Surely he must see that his parasitical prospecting in the Julian Assange, Wikileaks files story, will be seen for the outrageous publicity grabbing ploy he intends it to be!”
Prominent Caribbean journalist Julius Gittens might say it flies in the face of everything he taught me about journalists’ duty to – in so far as possible – keep themselves out of the news: to report the story, not be it.
And that elder regional reporting alumnus, Ricky Singh, might say the same – probably. “It can’t only be about you.” Singh once counselled, or words to that effect. He asked “How does your story advance the interests of the Barbadian public?”
Well, there are a few answers I could suggest to that question. But I have come to think it best to let the Barbadian (or any other) public supply the answers for themselves. Anyway, as I tell the story of how the CIA or MI5 (or whichever institution an uncommonly friendly Englishman who approached me in Norwich in 2002 was with) apparently came to the conclusion that I might be an Al Queda affiliated terrorist, such relevance as I believe this experience holds for other Barbadians – or other publics – will be communicated automatically.
So I am past worrying about how others will interpret this story: past excessively worrying about such adverse effects as it might have on my family life; my privacy. Actually, a loooonngg time ago the burden of keeping it to myself (mostly) became an inconvenience I decided I do not need. And I have been broaching the matter in an increasingly public manner with some consistency for more than a year now. In fact, I mention it in a section of my book “The Bible: Beauty and Terror Reconciled”, published last month (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bible-Beauty-Terror-Reconciled/dp/0956463703).
I therefore view the Assange-Wikileaks saga that I am tagging my story to here, as a matter of serendipity. The fact is, based on: my closeness to controversies at the 2001 United Nations World Conference Against Racism – controversies that prefaced the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America; a number of cryptic, threatening and intimidating messages left by a male with an American accent on my answering machine not long after those attacks; my interaction with the American embassy in Barbados in 2002 and subsequently; my encounter in Norwich with Charles Hines (the unusually gregarious Englishman mentioned above); and last but not least my subsequent close-shave experience at Gatwick Airport in what I remain convinced was an attempt of extraordinary rendition of my person, I do feel there is more than a slight chance that there may be some reference to me in the confidential files Wikileaks is currently publishing.
This is therefore no idle gimmick. I am merely telling a story whose time I believe is long overdue. I am not making this up. The story is true.
And the telling is primarily for my peace of mind. I think it behoves me to ensure that UK Home Secretary Theresa May, Pope Bennedict XVI and other persons I have reached out to in this Allvoices forum hear my side of this story – to which they may already have had access without my input.
Now, as I have already shared some of the more salient features of the story in the foregoing, my task now is merely to provide some useful fill-in details. In the interest of saving time and energy, I will be doing so simply by publishing information on these matters that I would have previously compiled in a number of emails and discourses, the latter typically for publication on my now inoperative website, www.intelek.net (some details may be on the Intelek International page on Facebook [http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Intelek-Internatonal/316040358216?v=wall], or in my Poeticjazztice blog on WordPress [https://poeticjazztice.wordpress.com/about/].)
Also, given Allvoices’ limits on article space, I shall probably have to present the information in instalments – as in my Open Letters to the Pope, or you might say, as Wikileaks is currently doing with its controversial cache of top secret files.
First up, copies of some emails I sent to my associates in Norwich Justice and Peace, the BBC and Amnesty International’s Caribbean branch. I have edited these to remove names, email addresses and telephone numbers (except my mobile) for privacy reasons. I have also corrected some spelling errors I overlooked in the original but found particularly “jarring” rereading here.
On Sun, 2/8/09, Jay Campbell wrote:
From: Jay Campbell
Subject: Extraordinary rendition attempt
Date: Sunday, 2 August, 2009, 2:25 PM
Recent media stories around the issue of extraordinary rendition have led me to relive a disturbing experience I had while on my first visit to the UK in September 2002. That experience – culminating in an unusual questioning of my identity in the departure lounge at Gatwick airport – has led me to believe that I became a target for extraordinary rendition by British and/or US anti-terrorism authorities.
I have already told some of you (especially members of Norwich Justice & Peace) about how a total stranger who I met at the Forum asked me if I had ever been to Afghanistan and if I had met Osama Bin Ladin. Well, bear that experience in mind when you read the details of the Gatwick incident, outlined in the email to the BBC copied below.
I have sent a shorter version of this email and other infornation to a number of journalists, media houses, activists and other agencies as part of an initiative I’ve launched to try to get to the bottom of this issue once and for all. If the British government once considered me a security risk I think I deserve to know why! I certainly would like to know if anyone in my native Barbados played any role (as I think certain persons may have done, maliciously) in raising suspicions that I could be a supporter of terrorism, or a terrorist myself.
I would deeply appreciate any assistance any of you (or any person or agency you know of) can give me in pursuing this.
— On Wed, 29/7/09, Jay Campbell wrote:
From: Jay Campbell
Subject: Fw: Extraordinary Rendition
Date: Wednesday, 29 July, 2009, 9:19 AM
Mob: 07920 884 222 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 07920 884 222 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
I’m a Barbadian writer-activist based in Norwich with my wife (British) and 2 children.
In September 2002, on my first visit to the UK, I believe I became a target for extraordinary rendition by British and/or US anti-terror authorities.
It happened at Gatwick airport, where I was waiting on a flight back to Barbados. As I sat in the boarding lounge a man who I assumed was working at the airport, tried to “coax” me onto flights to two other destinations. The memory is rather vague now, but I believe one of the flights was supposed to be to Senegal or Sudan and the other to Antigua.
What I am certain of, is that I was approached at least twice by this airport official – who I had possibly first encountered at the counter where they check your carry-on luggage – and asked if I was someone else – a person who supposedly had not heard their boarding call. There had been announcements on the public address system informing the person that their flight was preparing to depart.
The first time the official approached me he used an African or Arab name, I believe. The second time the name may have been a bit more familiar – a western name. I don’t recall him approaching anyone else. Why single me out – and for EACH inquiry?
I believe anti-terror authorities were expecting me to identify myself by one of the names used by the airport official in a bid to escape from them. This probably seemed like a plausible strategy because of the state of distress I was in.
My distress stemmed from my belief that the CIA had been on my trail for some time (even before I arrived in the UK), because of my association with radical Caribbean Pan Afracanists and pro-Palestinian interests who had apparently collaborated with Palestinian delegates at the UN World Conference Against Racism in September, 2001. That Conference, which was held in Durban S. Africa, ended amid threats to the US (and Britain) days before 9/11.
My authorship of a book entitled “The Bible: Beauty and Terror Reconciled” was probably also a factor that opened me to suspicion. Apparently, they figured that this book may be arguing for the justification of acts of terror. Nothing could be further from the truth! The book advocats radical (fundamental) Christian reform, but through education – not violence. I abhor violence.
Some days prior to the Gatwick incident, while at the the Millenium Library in Norwich, I was approached by a man who first pretended to befriend me and then asked me if I had ever been to Afghanistan, and had I met Osama Bin Ladin. Note that one of the victims of extraordinary rendition featured in your programme of July 28th reported being asked the very same questions.
His story, and those of others who have been victims of extraordinary rendition – stories that have been in the news in recent weeks and months – have struck a chord with me. That is why I am drawing my story to File On Four’s attention now.
The experience of finding myself a “person of interest to British and/or American anti-terror authorities was deeply traumatic. It led me virtually to the brink of a nervous break-down. I still suffer physical symptoms (acid reflux) dating back to the “mushrooming”of that experience here in the UK.
I have been trying for the last seven years to get to the bottom of how my non-violent advocacy could have been so misconstrued and my welfare imperiled. I suspect it may have had something to do with my ruffling of the feathers of influential religious, political and business leaders in Barbados (and their connected elites in the Caribbean and beyond).
Below is a copy of a letter I sent to James Burke of Amnesty International’s Caribbean arm, in an attempt to get assistance in dealing with this wider, ongoing challenge. The letter mentions the apprehension I was feeling about returning to Barbados, the day of the Gatwick incident.
I believe the anti-terrorism authorities who had been tracking me were well aware of that apprehension and were trying to exploit it in their attempt to get me on another plane. I believe I had a very close call!
I also believe I have a duty to ensure that my name is COMPLETELY cleared of any suspicion of involvement with or support for terrorism and to continue seeking compensation and/or some other kind of redress from the Barbados government and whoever else played a role in making me the subject of attempted extraordinary rendition.
Toward these ends, would File On Four be interested in helping me tell my story?
I look forward to your response.
Letter to Amnesty International
Subject Att: James Burke
Hello Mr. Burke,
I’m a Barbadian writer based in Norwich. I am seeking to draw attention to situations of political corruption, exploitation, victimization and repression in my homeland. I have been a victim of such exploitation and repression myself.
Essentially, I have suffered victimization, isolation and repression because of my moderate views on racial issues, especially the volatile issue of reparations for descendants of Africans brought to the Caribbean during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
While I was a consultant to the Barbados government Commission For Pan African Affairs (which played a leading role in having reparations put on the UN agenda at the historic racism conference of 2001) I was accused of spying on that department, because I insisted that the issue of some Africans complicity and exploitative involvement in the slave trade needed to be discussed.
Since the accusation was made by a public servant (Aaron “Buddy” Larrier) I reported this matter to the Ombudsman in Barbados. However, the matter was referred back to then Commission Director David Comissiong – for whom Larrier was/is a “gofer” or “errand boy”, and nothing ever came of my complaint.
I have also suffered economic disenfranchisement and exploitation at the hands of the Government, a situation both subtle and pervasive in Barbados. Basically, what we have in the country is a situation where politicians and their allies in the media, academia, the corporate sector and other areas marked by a concentration of intellectual and other elites have been dominating Barbados’ cultural landscape and treating the “cultural industries” – an area of burgeoning economic growth – almost as their own personal property! There is a natural overlap of political and “racialised cultural” issues in Barbados because of the country’s majority Black population.
Allied with some afro-centric cultural activists (like politician/calypsonian Anthony “Mighty Gabby” Carter) the political and business elites have been exercising a strangle-hold on much of Barbados’ cultural produce – denying myself and several other artists and activists the opportunity for just rewards and returns from our intellectual property.
I have attached copies of news stories (some of which include my personal notes and comments) which speak to these and related issues. However, I should warn that some media interests are complicit in the injutices I describe. I was once attacked publicly on a local radio broadcast by a journalist sympathetic to Comissiong, mentioned above.
From where I stand, the result of the intersection of exploitative political, economic, cultural and other interests (limitations of time and space do not allow me to address the complicity of religious clerics here) as suggested above, has been the creation of a repressive, intimidating societal atmosphere.
Barbados’ efforts to attend to a historical deficit in emphasis on the positive legacies of the island’s African heritage (a deficit resulting from the “success” of British colonialism there) are in some instances pushing the island toward a Mugabe-type reverse racism. Politically motivated, opportunistic indulgence of radical Pan Africanist, militant Rastafarian, rabid socialist and other volatile ideological interests by morally bankrupt politicos is undermining the countries development of freedom of expression.
Additionally, the prospect of making easy money (as some see it) through the slavery reparations argument, has and is resulting in a rapacity that led me to fear for my life when I challenged areas of this argument..
I feel marginalized, abandoned and excluded by Barbados’ government; I feel that I have been manipulated, abused and betrayed. I also fear that my ongoing efforts to redress the injustices I have suffered could bring harm to myself and/or those for whom I care – family and friends. In 2002 I almost suffered a nervous breakdown, as fear for my own safety in Barbados got the better of me on the day that I was returning to the island following my first visit to the UK.
The fear I felt then has never left me completely. I am currently planning a trip to Barbados this month, and I am concerned that there may be repercussions for the actions I have been taking in pursuit of justice during my time here in the UK (see my website http://www.intelek.net).
These efforts are particularly concentrated around my next book “Playing Through The Line”.
The power of the radical and militant afrocentrics by whom I feel threatened can be assessed by the fact that even Barbados’ Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, seems powerless to bring them to account. He has called them “negrocrats” but has refrained from identifying any of them by name.
Ideally, I would like to bring some form of legal action against the government of Barbados and other agencies and individuals who have contributed to the onslaught of psychological violence that has been my fate. I am currently thinking of doing this in conjunction with other Barbadians at home and abroad – in a kind of “class-action”.
Would Amnesty International assist us with this (or another form of resistance or protest)?
Could you please help?