Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Letter from Grattan Puxon to Roma of Turkey

Grattan Puxon, a Roma-Traveller activist who made important contributions to the organizing of the first World Roma Congress in London in 1971, sent a letter to Roma in Turkey. Grattan Puxon explains the importance of being elected of represantatives of international Roma organizations like International Roma Union or World Roma Organization in elections with a broad participation will be done over internet. Here is the letter of Grattan Puxon: 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Turkey,

I am Grattan Puxon. I'm old now but in my earlier years I was in Istanbul, the first time in 1960, when I walked on foot across the Turkish-Greek border. I was in Edirne, and in the Romani quarter of Sulukule in Istanbul, when that oldest-Romani mahala was so alive with life.

Thank you for the gracious hospitality you have shown me in your homes in the past and
I would like now to return the same to you through some ideas we are developing in London.

After the lst World Romani Congress in London in 1971, at the invitation of Fajk Abdi,
the first Rom elected to the Parliament of Macedonia, I moved to Shutka, the Romani
township of 35,000 outside Skopje (Uskub).

I was of course impressed that our community in Shutka could elect its own Member of Parliament. Also that Shutka elected its own township council and had its own cultural association, Phralipe, since l948. What I was able to bring to Shutka was the
blue and green Romani flag, with the red wheel in the centre, adopted by the London Congress.

Fajk told me that a number of members of his family lived in Izmir, that there are many family ties between Macedonia and Turkey, and indeed between Turkey and Greece (I lived in Sulon for 14 years). We are all one big family.

But to come to the point. If Shutka can elect a Rom to Parliament, so can other Romani communities. And this has been proved by the election of Juan de Dios Ramirez in Barcelona, Spain, and more recently by two members of the European Parliament being
elected by Roma in Hungary.

However, we needed at the same time to hold full elections to our own instutitions and international organizations. For local associations,  members can collected together in one place. But for our international organizations, such as the Congress of the World Roma Organization in last April in Belgrade, it is of course only possible for a few delegates
to come together and vote for the office-holders, the president, general-secretary etc.

The solution is easy to see. It can be done with computers and the internet.

So what we plan to develope is a programme with two parts to enable as many of our people as possible to:

1) vote in local and general, state-wide, elections

2) vote in elections for officers and representatives
    who can in speak for us at the EU in Brussels, in Strasbourg,
    and at the UN in New York

For 1) your associations are, I expect, already helping people to register for voting in the way provided by the state (filling in the necessary papers).

For 2) your associations may be ready to undertake to assist people to become voters in elections for Roma, Domani, representatives at the international level.
We in London only wish to bring into existence a system through which you can do this.  It is not a solution to the many difficulties you may be facing, but it is a way to provide a "tool" which you can use to help tackle those difficulties, concerning housing, education, welfare and work.

Please also note that our team regards itself a "technical" team. We are here to promote and make possible these proposals with any and all of the existing organizations.

So far I can tell you that the both older International Romani Union and the new World Roma Organization want to adopt internet voting for future Congresses (the system should be ready in two years). The European Roma and Travellers Forum is considering the proposal.

We believe the voting system can quite quickly reach 100,000 and not two far in the future One Million, considering that Roma number l5 million or more.

The One Million vote (or more) will provide a true democratic "mandate", which will surely gain us respect and increased influence. It will also render our representatives accountable to our grass-root communities, to the people in the mahalas.

And other advantage is that it will make it easier for us to manifest ourselves and increase the visibility of our collective idenity. Suppose at Herdelezi we all go on our picnics carrying the Romani flag, in every town and village (if that is appropriate in Turkey today).

In all parts of the EU, we shall be able to organize on 8 April Roma Nation Day manifestations calling for all the rights which have long been promised us. Through the internet programme it will be possible to call on all activisits to act together on the same day. We have done this each year on a smaller scale. Now this will be built into a big, peaceful, demonstration of 100,000 (and later One million).

Fajk Abdi said at the London Congress forty years ago that you can do two things - you can catch fish and feed the people, or better you can give people the tool to catch fish for
themselves. I hope you will consider these ideas.

Anyone interested can contact us on and we will keep  communicating with you and keep you informed.

The members of our team include Petar Antic, former minister in the Serbian Government; Toma Nikolaev, editor of the newspaper DeFacto (also one-time candidate MP in Bulgaria);
Ladislav Balaz, founder member of the Roma Civic Initiative in the Czech Republic; and Nin (Domani), responsible for our website

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