A peace appeal

Published : Jun 22, 2002 00:00 IST

TWENTY-NINE eminent persons from 22 countries, all Goodwill Ambassadors of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), have appealed to India and Pakistan "to heed the advice of international community and resolve their differences diplomatically." In a joint appeal, they call on the two governments to do this "in a spirit of the sub-continent's traditional common culture of non-violence and tolerance."

The appeal is sponsored by the South Asia Foundation, founded by Madanjeet Singh, who is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

The Goodwill Ambassadors are leading figures from different walks of life, who, by using their talent and international prestige, promote UNESCO's ideals of peace, justice, solidarity and mutual understanding in education, science and culture.

The joint appeal says that they are "deeply concerned about the dangerously escalating tension," because an outbreak of war between the two countries "shall inevitably end up in nuclear confrontation, now that both the countries are armed with weapons of mass destruction." The appeal cautions: "The catastrophic consequences of nuclear war and the horrible death and destruction it would surely cause shall further aggravate the suffering of the poverty-stricken people in South Asia."

"It is only by respecting the sentiments of their people who are largely against terrorism and fratricidal war that the responsible leaders of India and Pakistan could possibly fulfil their mandate of guiding the deprived masses in South Asia towards peace and prosperity," the appeal says.

The signatories to the joint appeal include Nobel laureates, music maestros, industrialists, artists and social activists.

Nigerian novelist Wole Soyinka, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, Guatemala's Rigoberta Menchu Tum, who was awarded the Nobel Peace in 1992, music maestros Marin Constantin of Romania, Jose Antonio Abreu (piano, Venezuela), Miguel-Angel Estrella (piano, Argentina), Ivry Gitlis (violin, Israel) and Jean Michel Jarre (electro-acoustics, France), Cuban ballerina and choreographer Alicia Alonso, French film star Claudia Cardinale, Spanish opera singer Montserrat Caballe, football legend Edson Pele of Brazil, Princess Firyal of Jordan and former President of Iceland Vigdis Finnbogadottir, French astronaut Patrick Baudry and Spanish navigator and explorer Kitin Munoz, besides Madanjeet Singh (India), are among those who have signed the appeal.

The other Goodwill Ambassadors who have signed the peace appeal are: Pierre Berge (President, Yves St. Laurent, France), Pierre Cardin (fashion designer, France), Dr. Cheick Modibo Diarra (African astrophysicist, USA), Bahia Hariri (Member of Parliament, Lebanon), Ikuo Hirayama (traditional painter, Japan), Omer Zulfu Livaneli (journalist and musician, Turkey), Ute-Henriette Ohoven (patron of art, Germany), Kim Phuc (a famous survivor of the Vietnam war, Canada), Susana Rinaldi (tango singer, Argentina), Sheikh Ghassan Shaker (international entrepreneur, Saudi Arabia); Giancarlo Elia Valori (President, Industrialists Union, Italy), Marianna Vardinoyannis (President, Child and Family Foundation, Greece) and Julio Werthein (banker and patron of art, Argentina).

Another corporate debacle

ON June 15, a Federal jury in the United States convicted Arthur Andersen, a major accounting firm, of obstruction of justice for impeding an investigation by securities regulators into the financial debacle at Enron. Soon afterward, Andersen informed the U.S. government that it would cease auditing public companies by the end of August, effectively ending the life of the 89-year-old firm.

The jury verdict, it is alleged, reflected a narrow reading of the events that led to Andersen's indictment. In interviews, jurors said that they reached their decision because an Andersen lawyer had ordered critical deletions to an internal memorandum, rather than because of the firm's wholesale destruction of Enron-related documents.

At bottom, then, the guilty verdict against Andersen - on a charge brought because of the shredding of thousands of records and deletion of tens of thousands of e-mail messages - was ultimately reached because of the removal of a few words from a single memorandum.

The conviction is the first ever against a major accounting firm and was based on the first criminal indictment stemming from the government's investigation into the events that led to Enron's collapse in December 2001. Sentencing has been scheduled for October 11, and Andersen faces the possibility of fines up to $500,000.

With Andersen already failing, and the firm having given up on its effort to emerge from the scandal as a model for reforming the accounting profession, the most important result of the verdict was that it closed the books on the firm's hopes of surviving even in a reduced state.

Within hours of the verdict, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a statement that Andersen was voluntarily relinquishing its ability to audit public companies in the U.S., a privilege that requires authorisation to practise before the agency.

Andersen is already a shell of its former self. The firm has lost 690 of its 2,311 public company clients since January 1. It has shrunk from 27,000 employees in the U.S. to 10,000 at most, between layoffs and the departures of whole offices and practices to competing firms.

Andersen and its lawyers reacted to the verdict with strong disappointment, maintaining that the firm never committed a crime in its destruction of Enron documents. Rusty Hardin, Andersen's lead lawyer in the case, said that the firm would appeal the conviction.

"The verdict sends a message out loud and clear to the accounting industry to get their priorities straight," said Samuel W. Buell, an assistant U.S. attorney who was one of the prosecutors in the case. Andersen, Buell said, was working too hard to protect itself and Enron, its client, without paying enough attention to the interests of the investing public.

Andersen was charged with obstructing a SEC investigation by destroying thousands of records related to its audit of Enron. The prosecution argued that Andersen made a deliberate effort to prevent outside parties, including the SEC, from learning the full story about Enron's accounting. But the defence countered that the government had failed to provide any proof that anyone at Andersen had acted with corrupt intent to impede an inquiry. n

New York Times Service
Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment