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Author: Mayor Jabba Riaz

Mayor’s Week: 15 – 21 March 2019

Mayor’s Week: 15 – 21 March 2019

Memories from last week can only be described as bittersweet.  As news broke of the terrorist attacks in New Zealand in which 50 men, women and children were brutally, viciously murdered, my heart sank.  I experienced a whole spectrum of emotions from disgust, loathing and resentment through to disbelief, shock and horror.

What do you say in such circumstances?  I was lost for words. However, I was determined to join forces with our MP Robin Walker to speak out about the very real threat of far-right extremism, racism and Islamophobia that festers beneath the surface and which gave rise to this atrocity. I once again thank Worcester residents and faith groups for showing solidarity. I pray for the victims and their families.

The mood was lifted on Friday evening as I welcomed dignitaries and guests to the glamourous Guildhall for my Charity Ball. I am glad to say that the evening was a huge success.  Although the final total is unknown, we raised well over £12,000 on the night!

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the volunteers and staff at the Guildhall. A special mention goes to Moira D’Adda, Tracey Hopkins, Tracey Collinson, Gill Preece and Ben Schiffman for their extraordinary support. I must not forget to mention all the wonderful businesses that supported my charities and of course to all the guests that made it such a special and beautiful occasion and donated so generously; thank you!

On a blustery Saturday morning I joined scores of dog walkers for a walk around Pitchcroft, organised by the Reconnections charity as part of the ‘Talk to me Worcester’ campaign.  It was thoroughly enjoyable and yes, I did clean up after my pooch!

On Sunday morning I joined Daniel Walton on the second leg of his attempt to walk the perimeter of the County – a whopping total of 187 miles – in just over a week!  He was on his way from Hagley to Studley. Daniel is raising money for Onside Advocacy – a fantastic county-based charity that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. He needs to hit his £5,000 target so please support him! Come rain or shine, or a massive hailstorm in our case, we carried on to complete a fantastic day’s effort and a well-deserved rest at the aptly named Boot Inn.

 

Mayor’s Week: 8 – 14 March 2019

Mayor’s Week: 8 – 14 March 2019

Fresh from my trip abroad, it was straight back to business with the annual Pancake Race in the Cloisters, courtesy of the Dean and Cannon. For the first time in the event’s history the Mayor and High Sheriff were invited to lead the teams; I had some considerable ground to make up going into the last heat! I stepped up a gear and manoeuvred through the obstacles just in time for a Photo Finish; the inevitable steward’s enquiry deemed it a draw!

On Thursday I joined the Worcestershire Ambassadors for their Prostate Cancer screening event at Worcester Racecourse.  It’s a well-known fact that men are less likely to take their health seriously.  Men in their 40’s are increasingly likely to develop this form of cancer but if detected early enough, it can be treated and cured. The test procedure is straightforward and simple; you have nothing to fear.  It really is a no–brainer, so I urge all men in this age group to get tested!

Then I crossed over the river to the University, where I joined Members of Unison and academics to celebrate International Women’s Day.  We recognised the difficulties and hardships that women have had to go through to gain recognition and parity in the workplace. There’s still a long way to go but we are heading in the right direction. Thank you to the great women in my life (my mum and my wife) for making me the man that I am; without you I am nothing.

Giving young people the chance to shine and showcase their business skills is always important.  The Young Enterprise programme (www.young-enterprise.org.uk) is the perfect format for them to do this. Being a graduate of Young Enterprise myself, I realise its value and benefit in nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurial talent. I was delighted to award certificates and trophies to the winners of the Young Enterprise Fair held on the High Street last Saturday.  All the entries were of a high calibre and well thought out; they were a credit to Worcester and to the business mentors who guided them.

This city has shown incredible support and love to little Oscar Saxelby-Lee, by coming out in their droves to an event I hosted with the DKMS charity at the Guildhall on Saturday.  About a thousand people turned up to show their support and I can’t thank the volunteers, Guildhall staff and of course residents for turning out unselfishly, purely through the kindness of their hearts. If that isn’t the embodiment of my theme of Love Not Hate, then I don’t know what is. This city has shown time and time again during my mayoral year that we are a caring, understanding and unselfish community that goes out of its way to help others.  We come together in solidarity and unity in times of need.

I feel to a certain extent that I have achieved what I set out to do in this mayoral year as it nears its conclusion:  trying to unite the City and make it an even better, more pleasant place to live in, work in and enjoy.

 

 

Mayor’s Weeks: 21 February – 7 March 2019

Mayor’s Weeks: 21 February – 7 March 2019

Like it or not, we live in interesting times.  There is danger and uncertainty; but we are also living through one of the most creative periods in the history of mankind.  My recent visit to Pakistan certainly proved this point.

My itinerary was disrupted by the escalation of tensions between two nuclear neighbours.

The main purpose of my visit was to promote Worcester and to meet the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, an ex-Worcester Grammar School pupil and Worcestershire County Cricket Club player. I had messages and letters from auctioneer Phillip Serrell, RGS Worcester and the County Cricket Club to deliver to the PM, as well as good wishes from the city. Unfortunately, the threat of war meant I was not able to meet him, but I delivered the letters to the British High Commission in Islamabad instead.

My tour started off with a visit to see the Mayor of the Gujranwala, Sheikh Sarwat Ikram.  Gujranwala is the city of my birth and is known for its culinary delights as well as the city of Pahelwans – roughly translated as wrestlers!

A grand traditional welcome awaited me and I addressed the city council and members of the chamber of commerce.  I was awarded the Mace of Wrestlers and a traditional Punjabi head dress known as a Kula!

I then went on to Lahore to meet the Mayor, retCol Mubasher Javed, at the iconic city hall building on the Mall Road – a beautiful legacy from the British colonial era. We talked about improving relations and friendship between our cities and exploring any opportunities that may arise after Brexit.

This was followed by a visit to the capital, Islamabad, where I saw the Minister for Kashmir, Mr Amin Gandapur.  This was a real bonus; we discussed issues affecting the overseas Kashmiri population, of which there is a small community here in Worcester.

Naturally the conversation led to the crisis in Kashmir and the right to self- determination for the Kashmiri population – an issue that is a thorn in the side of the world’s conscience and one that needs to be addressed if we are truly interested in peace in the region.

Next up was a visit to the Islamabad Press Club where I saw a tribute to murdered journalists around the world.  Pakistan’s press is remarkably free and liberal and not at the mercy of state control or political influence. However the threat and fear of violence is very real, and many have died delivering the truth. I paid my respects and delivered a short speech on press freedom, fake news, neutrality and ethics.

A four-hour drive to Mirpur Azad in Kashmir was the highlight of the trip; the beautiful scenery, winding roads, lakes and mountains are all visons of a paradise on earth.

During the drive I got a call from a friend who also lives in Worcester who happened to be visiting his mum in the village of Nakyal. He spoke in a worried voice, saying there had been firing and shelling overnight and they’d had to evacuate the women and children in the village to safer ground.

The reality of the situation began to sink in and I felt some fear.  The Government announced that air space was to close due to the imminent threat of war. I calmed my nerves by thinking about my family back home.  I reassured myself that PM Imran Khan is a capable and diplomatic leader who does not want war – especially not a nuclear war.

As we arrived in Mirpur, the gateway to Kashmir, I noticed an extremely large billboard in the distance with a vaguely familiar figure on it. As we got closer I saw to my surprise that the Mirpur Municipal Corporation had commissioned the poster with my picture on it to welcome me to the city! I was naturally gobsmacked.  One thing I have learned about Pakistani culture it is that they don’t do things by half, and they certainly lived up to that reputation.

A meeting with the CEO and cabinet of the corporation resulted in an interesting discussion around recycling and waste management. The city is roughly the size of Worcester and has a population of around 150,000.

Arriving back in my home village, I met with local Christians and admired the native population’s effort to help this community to build a church tower.    With intense poverty and homelessness in large parts of the country and land prices doubling every three to five years, the contrast between the rich and the poor is self-evident.  For many, faith in God sees them through their daily existence.

I always say that, despite the chaotic driving, state of its infrastructure and poverty, Pakistan is a country of miracles, great natural resources and beauty. Its people are passionate, innovative and entrepreneurial; they always find a way.

Mayor’s Diary: 8 – 14 February 2019

Mayor’s Diary: 8 – 14 February 2019

Love is in the air!  Depending on your level of optimism or pessimism this week, you may have been praising or cursing St Valentine as you rushed around the city to find the last bunch of sweet-smelling roses and the cheesiest Valentine Card left on the shelf – or the ‘forever yours’ pendant for your Valentine.

In his 1375 poem ‘Parliament of Fowles’, Geoffrey Chaucer described the 14th of February as the day that birds found their mate, heralding the start of Modern Valentine’s day. Over the centuries sages and poets alike have expressed their undying yearning love and pined over their beloved.  Love is the principal force behind human life.  In medieval theology, it was held that love literally set the universe in motion.  The praises of love do not, perhaps, extend as far back in time as the first human etchings or writings, but they do go pretty far back. “Amor vincit omnia” is part of a line from Virgil’s Eclogues: ‘Love Conquers all, let us yield to love.’

It is this love that in the modern day and age is in diminishing supply.  We find that far too many of us (Including myself many times) yield to the routines of modern life and succumb to the negativity, doom and gloom of heart-breaking world events. I find personally that the antidote to the ill feeling, hate or negativity that I often feel, is an expression of love or an act of kindness to release the negative energy from within.  I leave you with a couple of quotes that touched my heart and hopefully yours too; the first from Martin Luther King and the latter from the Sufi Saint Rumi, whose appeal is universal:

“Darkness cannot drive out Darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that”

“Wherever Water Flows Life Flourishes, Wherever Tears Flow, Divine Mercy Appears, Love Calls- everywhere and always, we are sky bound; are you coming?”

Love not Hate.