For the attention of the British Ambassador to Indonesia
As Founder of the Jakarta Highland Gathering in 1975, and honoured to be an Honorary Life Patron of this rather unique Indonesian – Scottish, multi-national event, it was first of all disappointing that you personally were unable to attend any of the events arranged by the community. There was a time not so long ago when our Ambassador was a fellow Patron and a keen supporter of this annual enterprise, but it was noteworthy among some that this may no longer be the case.
However it is about the ‘Keep Britain GREAT’ campaign that was introduced to the Gathering events that I write you. As we are aware, this is a UK tax-paid contribution to the ‘NO’ campaign, otherwise known as the ‘Better Together’ initiative, leading up to the Referendum in Scotland in September. The fact that very few in Indonesia understood this particular, rather crude propaganda tactic for what it was, was mildly humorous, but nevertheless quite inappropriate for what was a sporting event in a country unconnected with the issue of Scotland’s political future in the United Kingdom. I have blamed the Chairman of this year’s Games for introducing such an advertisement to the Gathering, but he admits to not being aware of its underlying political subterfuge. I understand that a British Embassy financial contribution to the Games’ funds was made, and although cash is always welcome, as profits are given to local charities, this was unethical, underhand and possibly illegal. Just not cricket, you might say!
I am aware that this subliminal advertisement for the ‘NO’ campaign has come out of London, and that all Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions around the World have been instructed to propagate this abetment. And I gather that these tax-paid shop-windows for the United Kingdom have been asked to check out the reactions of local residents (both expatriate and nationals) on their views of the case for maintaining the Union. Whether these provocations will produce any benefit for the Unionists remains to be seen; my letter solely addresses the introduction of such blatant, one-sided political propaganda to our Games. If the Glasgow Commonwealth Games have to work hard to keep politically neutral, then surely a small event overseas can get on with the business without introducing contentious politics.
This letter is copied to a watchful internet group in Scotland which is investigating how widespread this edict from Whitehall has been.
Gordon G Benton, OBE
Hon Life Patron, Jakarta Highland Gathering
Chieftain Java St Andrew Society, 1973-1974