Thursday, 4 February 2010

The Maltese Sighting

Yesterday, February 4 2010, I was at Pousada de São Tiago, after lunch, and enjoy an "iii lai tchá" (hot tea with milk, in Cantonese) in the outside coffee-shop. It’s a pity that today was a misty day in Macau. This is not the winter of my discontent, because the weather has been fairly mildly. But last Tuesday, I was at Pousada de S.Tiago. I had a “tong lemong tchá” (iced tea with lemon) and witnessed a perfect end of day, made glorious by this sun of Macau as you can see in the picture above.

I’m preparing another post, analyzing the hundreds of sightings of Madeleine, from Argentina to Venezuela, paying special attention to the 12 (or 14…) “officially” registered sightings in Malta and looking more carefully to how the British Media and the McCann couple reacted to those sightings. A very special attention will be given to the sighting reported by Mr. Ray Roberts, also in Malta.

Last summer I went to Portugal and bought three books at the Hong Kong Airport. “A Most Wanted Man”, from one of my preferred authors, John le Carré, was one of those books. Le Carré is still a superb writer – I would give up everything I wrote, as a journalist, in the last 29 years, in exchange for having the talent to produce a few dozen pages as good as “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.”

But Le Carré seems to have lost something, after the end of the “Cold War” – a problem to everyone working for the “services”, an expression those Portuguese professionals from this field use. John le Carré, himself, analyzed this dilemma, also in a superb style, in “A Perfect Spy”.

Anyway, it was a book worth the time I spend reading it, during the flight from Hong Kong to Lisbon. I’m not John le Carré, even if I met in Hong Kong, in 1991, a German businessman that was a good “friend” of William Craw, a fictional character of “The Honourable Schoolboy” based on a real person – a British journalist who was president of Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club and has a bust in the FCC (*).

I went to FCC several times, while in Macau, between 1986 and 1997. I met Hugh Van Es, who died last year, and still remember his favourite expression (can’t reproduce it, sorry…) Once, we – me, Hugh van Es, Stuart Wolfendale and other HK based correspondents - had a couple of beers at FCC, after dinner, and went out for one more drink.

Last thing I remember, before taking a taxi to my hotel, was being at a small bar in Lam Kwai Fong, and a member of the diplomatic corps based in HK lying down in the floor, with a good level of alcohol in the blood.

We were all leaving the bar, together – me, Hugh van Es and other journalists that I can’t remember, for obvious reasons… - and no one give a damn about the drunken diplomat. I asked the patron, a middle-aged Chinese lady, what about the diplomat and she told me: “No problem, he comes here many times and always finishes like that. We will take care of him…”

Another person I met, in Macau, still is an institution inside the FCC, itself an institution in HK: Clare Hollingworth, the British Journalist that got one the great “scoops” of all times when she spotted German troops massing near the border with Poland. I met her in 1989 – the year of June 4 events in Tiananmen and when around 50 thousand illegal residents of Macau went to the streets - when a British minister in charge of Hong Kong affairs came to Macau, to meet Governor Carlos Melancia. I was acting director of the Macau Government Press Office and was in charge of “handling” a large number of HK based foreign correspondents, which came to Macau, following the Minister, “smelling” big news.

I remember I was in the front garden of Santa Sancha, the Governor’s Residence, chatting with journalists while the British Minister was talking with the Governor, when an old lady crossed the entry gates, asked something to a foreign journalist and then came to me, almost breathless: “Hello, my name is Clare Hollingsworth, I’m a journalist…”

I almost freeze. Clare Hollingworth? The author of “There's a German Right Behind Me”? The journalist who first reported the beginning of World War II? My God! I had the same feeling when I shook hands with Walter Cronkite, who came to Macau in 1990, to interview the acting Governor, Mr. Carlos Monjardino, for a TV documentary about Asia. My legs were trembling, just like when Mike Chinoy interviewed me for CNN, in 1994 or 1995 (I still have to check my blue Portuguese notebooks for the exact date…) when he did a special report about Macau and I was Governor Rocha Vieira “Nº1 Public Enemy”.

I took her to a quieter corner of the garden, found a comfortable sofa and asked if she wanted a fresh drink. She told me, again: “I’m Clare Hollingworth, I don’t’ know if you know me…” I knew. The Press adviser of the Minister, alerted about her presence, was already with us. “I’m afraid I’m behaving like a reporter…” – she said to the Press adviser, with a smile.

When the meeting finished, Clare Hollingworth was worried about how to get a taxi to the jetfoil, but I already had a car from my office waiting at the gates of Santa Sancha and we went together, with the Minister’s Press adviser, to the pier. During the short trip, she asked a few blunt questions to the poor guy. He didn’t dare to refuse an answer of to say the usual “No comments”, so he was most embarrassed, because he had to reply in front of the “enemy” – me, the acting director of Macau Government Press Office.

I gave him a helping hand and I said that he could speak openly. He had my word that I wouldn’t repeat his answers to anyone. He explained to Clare Hollingworth that the Minister came to Macau to ask to the Governor to stop “redirecting” to HK the boats with Vietnamese refugees that landed in Macau. Mr. Melancia, politely, told him that Macau Government fulfilled all its international obligations and never broke the law.

Whenever a boat with refugees was detected, at high sea, by the Macau Marine Police, they followed international rules and helped them. But people on those boats just asked for water, fuel, food and how to reach Hong Kong. I left both of them at the jetfoil pier and went back home (my son, at the time four years-old, was there, with Mrs. Elfie, my full-time Philippine domestic employee for many years, as it was my weekend with him).

I’m not John le Carré and I’m not Dashiell Hammett, but I’ll try to analyze, in the next post, the many Madeleine McCann sightings, all over the world. I will do it with more detail when looking at what I call “The Maltese Sighting”: the amazing case of Mr. Ray Roberts and the way British Media handled it.

PReis(*) I’m “selling” these details just as I “bought” them. With this, I mean that I trust the source, a low-profile German businessmen living in Hong Kong for more that 20 years, at the time and who, to my surprise, also told me that he had at home several old vinyl records of “Duo Ouro Negro”, the most well-known singers and musicians from Angola, who made with great success, the fusion of the traditional African music and pop music (as you can hear in that link…)


KC said...

Proost Paulo !

Doughnut said...

Macau Government Press Office, eh? Given that Macau was a Portuguese Colony around this time (and soon to be ex), that means you were pretty much doing what Clarence Mitchell was doing for Downing Street, yeah?

You must have some great stories. I thought you were more involved on the travel/relations side of things: trade/tourist industry etc? Maintaining good relations - emphasising its merits over and above some of its dark side (as every country has one). I remeber you talking about about the events of Tiananmen Square before and and witnessing first hand the desperation of some of the students fighting to get out of the country.

I suppose old instincts must have come to the fore when you saw a threat to Portugal's trade and tourist industries in light of the McCann case. Would this account for some of the spin you've applied to stories coming in and out of Portugal? Would this be a reasonable charge? A knee jerk response to protecting the interests of your country?

Doughnut said...

BTW: I remember your views on Nazi Germany and I totally support your views. Am I right in remembering a story you told me about people with the surname 'Silva' being forcibly converted from Judaism to Catholicism during some distant period in Portugal's history?


Paulo Reis said...

Dear BTW,

I wll tell you another story, about people being forcibly converted from Judaism to Catholicism, when D. Manuel (1469-1521) was the King of Portugal. He expelled all Jews and Muslims. Those who wanted to stay, had to convert to Catholicism. There was a family of Jews living in Olival, a small village near the city of Fatima. They decided to stay and they converted to Catholicism. As most Jews have done, they adopted Portuguese names, either adapting their Jewish names to Portuguese or/and choosing names of plants. Sometimes, they did both things: "Videira" ("Vine" or "Gaprevine", in Portuguese) and "Reis" (from "Reiss", commonly used by Ashkenazic Jewish people as a metonymic occupational name for a dealer in rice - Yiddish: רײַז).

My firts name is Paulo. My surnames (family names, like my father) are : Vieira (from "Videira") dos Reis.


Paulo Reis

Doughnut said...

That's very interesting. I can understand your horror at the Nazis, but why did you leave out my intitial comment Paulo?

BTW is just shorthand for 'By the way' (meaning additionally).

I was just asking if you thought it was likely that your lack of objectivity about the case might be partly explained by your having woked as Director of Press for the Macua Government?

At this time Macau was a Portuguese Colony, so you were effectively occupying a position not unlike Clarence Mitchell (by proxy, your superiors would have been the Portuguese Government, is this correct?).

I was just wondering whether you thought this may provide a reasonable explanation for - what I feel at least - has been a very one sided view of the investigation?

As I recall your position was to foment good relations between Macau and the rest of the world? Wasn't there also an emphasis on maintaining a healthy tourist trade? Presenting Macaua as a great destination and a good country to trade with?

Far from being a cheap attack, I was genuinely wondering if you thought that this would explain your response to the UK Press and the challenge posed by McCann spin to Portugal's tourist and property trades (and you had every right to feel challenged).

Trouble is though - and forgive me if you think this is a slight - but it puts you in an awkward position when commenting/reporting on the case doesn't it? Maybe you are not likely to be as objective as you could be, given your previous employment?

I can put this an open letter on my own blog if you prefer?

Blackwatch/Sargeants Inn

Doughnut said...

Joana Andrea Pinto Morais Lopes da Silva!

I think I see. António José da Silva - 'O Judeu'. A playwright in Lisbon. Family tortured. Decapitated. This was a long long time ago though, as was 1945. Even the Estado Novo was probably even before some of your readers were born - and the Nazis were probably before some of their parents and grandparents were born. I'm not suggesting we forget them, but using current circumstances to settle old scores surely just prolongs the cycle of violence (or the cycle of resentment at the very least)?

Isn't there a good case for saying that there is a much greater threat of fascism (real fascism) erupting from the 'left' this time around and not the 'right' (just to use the old dichotomies)?

It erupted from the left as part of Nazi Germany didn't it? National Socialism? Didn't National Socialism provide the necessary political and intellectual context for much of what Nazism achieved? It starts with pride in one's national/regional identity - and turns into something when bad things happens as it did with the Great Depression - that same bond that united people was the very same bond that broke so many others apart: they united against a convenient scapegoat: the Jew.

I find the very idea of the 'left' and the 'right' to be a very misleading beast, as I do the idea that monsters like Hitler arrived in some action-figure box with the words, 'Bad Guys' printed on it (I remember getting a French Resistance Figure Action Man in much a similar box in the 1970s. My favourite). People like Hitler evolve - and it is usually prefigured by resentment and a determination to aportion blame - long after the precipiating incident occurred.

I watched 'Inglorious Basterds' recently and I found myself a little disturbed by taking pleasure in the killing of the Nazis soldiers, I have to say. It's an emotional anachronism, don't you think?

Truth is though (and I am ashamed to admit it) but I found myself far more disturbed by my continuing fascination with the Nazi Propaganda machine. Those wonderful uniforms, that compelling architecture. It must have been easy to be seduced by that kind of thing at such a vulnerable time. Sadly I see a similar thing happening today - but we're 'coming together' over jews this time but by arabs. And it's a real shame we're being manipulated in this way. No propaganda is good.

Anyway, so this where all that Gerry McCann looks like Josef Mengele from Ms Nyssen came from, eh?


Paulo Reis said...

António José da Silva, ("O Judeu"): 1705-1739

Paulo Reis

Doughnut said...

There's little doubting it's an horrific and tragic tale, Paulo but it was such a long time ago. I am not sure its a fair comparison to the rights of expression issue raised by Amaral - which I agree is complex and urgent. Amaral's situaton is a lot more contentious, whilst no one can contend the brutality of what happened to Antonio Jose da Silva.

Sometimes its so easy to act in a primal, viscious or even just instinctive fashion and then attach some intellectual, political or religious expression to it. And it happens now as much as it did then on both sides of the conflict.

I could no more claim the emotional equity gained during my father's experiences in Palestine (where he played his own small part in the creation of the state of israel) than I can claim the guilt of the millions of lives lost during World War II.

There's surely a point at which people have to move on?

Paulo Reis said...

Dear Doughnut,

In one of your comments published on this post, you pointed to the fact that Joana Morais also has what appears to be a Portuguese name of Jewish ancestry, like me ("Joana Andrea Pinto Morais Lopes da Silva! I think I see. António José da Silva - 'O Judeu")

I don't know about Joana Morais, but I have Jewish ancesters, from my father'side, as I found when I went through my father's village church baptism registrations, that start in 1696.

- "Joaquim" - The Jewish name Joachim is pronounced as YOWAAKIHM or WAAKIYM) (3 syll. joa-(c)him, jo-ach-im)

- "Reis" - "Reiss" is a surname of Old German origin, and was most commonly used by Ashkenazic Jewish people as a metonymic occupational name for a dealer in rice (Yiddish רײַז), or as an ornamental name from the Old High German word Reis ‘twig,’ ‘branch.’)

My great-great-great grand-father was called "Joaquim dos Reis".

See? Now, you have all the facts and evidence that you nedd to, beyond any doubt, prove that there is a Jewish based/inspired/organized/financed (you choose...) conspiration against the McCann...

Enjoy your herself with that. And try also to get a life...

Paulo Reis

Doughnut said...

Get a life? Paulo, that's a bit strong! What am I doing that's really any different to what you're doing?

Have you been reading the Three Arguidos guide to having a discussion? You're beginning to sound no more capable of having a discussion than the likes of dingbats like Laffin Assasin.

I don't think there's a great deal of relevance in either of you having jewsish names - but why be so coy about it? You clearly have a great deal of interest in the history of your names and the subeject of National Identity itself - and you clearly know about Joana's surname as you appear within lines of each other on Amaral's petition. You contribute to her blog on the subject of the da Silvas. You know very well that Joana has this surname - so why the hostile response? What's so very worng in addressing it as an issue?

It's when we can't discuss things that we know we have problems. You write a blog - at times a very good one - and I seek nothing more than to place it some kind of context.

You have an interest in politics, I have an interest in politics, Joana has an interest in politics so discussion and expression seems a reasonable demand, yes? You shouldn't be letting your national pride get in the way.

If you just want to make me feel bad, you'll have to come up with something a little more decisive than just trying to hurt my feelings Paulo.

Doughnut said...

Sorry. I reread your post and I see what you mean. You think I believe there is a'jewish conspiracy' behind what happened to the McCanns? No, not at all. I think people have got me wrong on that front before (what I said is that the Press - which tends, like the British Government, to be supported finacially by Jewish patrons like Murdoch and Richard Desmond etc - seemed determined the adopt the attitude that 'arabs' were behind Madeleine's disappearance - which I am sure we can agree was hokum.

I was saying it had been politicized by jewish bias, not that they were responsible for her 'abduction'.

All I am saying is you and Joanna have common interests, a shared interest in injustice, a common bond through your Socialist principles and a shared determination in politicizing the Madeleine investigation. And also a good understanding of National Identity - which is how I am assuming you know so much about your common ancestries. That you share distant jewish ancestries is arbitrary I imagine. But your socialist principles less so - but that's just my view. You seem a People's person Paulo, nothing wrong in that. Gerry's family in Ireland are probably the same. You might have more in common than you realise. My grandfather was a active Socialist member in Lancashire area in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Used to go all over the country. It's an admirable ideal in my view, but like all intellectual ideals, in the hands of the wrong people it can do a lot of damage.

Paulo Reis said...

Dear Doughnut,

Ok, now that you clarified your words, my apologies for being a little bit rude. But I’m not a Socialist. I was a Communist, when I was 17/18 years old, in Angola. Now, politically, I’m quite Conservative. I’m not even a Social-Democrat (the late Willy Brandt used to say that “to be a good Social-democrat at your 40’s it is necessary to be a good Communist when you were 20 something…) And I’m a People’s person, as you wrote.


Paulo Reis

Doughnut said...

No offence taken, Paulo.

Was wondering what you made of this?

Do you know of their political bias at all?

Paulo Reis said...

Dear Doughnut,

God!!! What a surprise, for me, the content of the link you posted here!!!!

But take a look at this:

It was taken from here:

PBI.PT white Pages

It's the Portuguese Phone Directory online (only fixed line phones, no mobile phones)

and it lists:

- 25,727 results for the surname "Vieira"

- 17,943 results for the surname "Reis"

- 2 (two) results for the surname "Schubeius"

- 7 (seven) results for the surname "Landerset"

- 56,356 adresses for the surname "Gonçalves"

- 178,261 results for the surname "Silva"

- 8,925 results for the surname "Morais"

- 37,664 results for the surname "Pinto"

- 49,460 results for the surname "Lopes"

- 103 results for the surname "Campanha"

- 1,263 results for the surname "Albertino"

Now, I changed my mind: get a life...

Paulo Reis