(Title Image: via Senedd TV)
Following yesterday’s news of the sudden death of Mohammad Asghar, nearly all of the items on this afternoon’s virtual Senedd plenary session were pulled so MSs could pay tribute to their friend and colleague.
The weekly ministerial statements on coronavirus will be issued in writing and, hopefully, they’ll be coming up later today.
“One of the Senedd’s characters”
Ahead of a minute’s silence, the Llywydd, Elin Jones (Plaid, Ceredigion) said Mohammad’s death came as a “cruelly unexpected blow” and as one of the Senedd’s “characters” she asked members to warmly commemorate him and extend their sympathies to his family: “Oscar, your Senedd gives you and your family a big virtual cwtsh, as you cwtshed so many of us over the years.”
Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies MS (Con, Preseli Pembs.) said Mohammad’s death would leave an emptiness with those who knew him. He had unique experiences and used his platform as the first BAME member to build bridges, inviting the Israeli ambassador to the Senedd in efforts to promote peace between Jews and Muslims.
“He was generous in so many ways and with so many people, and he was also a rare thing in politics: someone who spoke no ill of others, who was not capable of hate, who saw in other politicians of all parties a shared commitment to achieve for their communities and their constituencies.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies MS
The First Minister grimly noted that Mohammad is the third member to die in office during “an especially cruel” Fifth Senedd. He was able to demonstrate – as someone who had arrived in Wales from another continent – that you can build a successful life here. While he’ll be missed in Wales, he’ll also be missed elsewhere in the world because his career “was a symbol of something so much wider”.
Cricket-obsessed, generosity of spirit….and tea
Several members noted his passion for cricket and his support for establishing a Welsh national cricket team; the First Minister recounted Mohammad’s ability to reliably know scores from around the world.
“As Ieuan Wyn (Jones) recounts, you never left Oscar’s home without a full stomach. I was reminded of this generosity at first hand a year or two ago when Ieuan and I were chatting in the Senedd café. As Ieuan walked towards the counter, Oscar rushed towards the waitress and bellowed, ‘This is on me’, insisting on buying us both a cup of tea.”
– Adam Price MS (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr)
BXP’s Mark Reckless noted how Mohammad was able to get results for constituents by speaking at length in the chamber about their issues and going directly to ministers instead of working through officials.
Delyth Jewell MS (Plaid, South Wales East) recounted (from former MS Jocelyn Davies) how the BNP waited to stage a mass flounce out when Mohammad’s election was confirmed in 2007. He smiled through it, which felt “like a little victory over prejudice and hatred”.
There were also plenty of titbits from behind the scenes: carrying the Olympic torch in the 1960s, negotiating the price of handmade dresses down in Brussels for Angela Burns MS’s (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs) daughters, negotiating up the price of a bracelet which a market stallholder believed was silver but was actually platinum, offering to be wedding chauffeur for Nick Ramsay MS (Con, Monmouth), an emotional trip to the Holy Land and endless cups of tea.
“We’re marking the sad passing of a dear friend who has left us with so many happy memories and an inspiring way to approach life in all its variety and wonder, and in this time of deep sorrow, we remember his family, particularly his widow, Firdaus, and daughter Natasha. May they be comforted by the contribution he has made to Wales and, indeed, to further the spirit of generosity and tolerance worldwide.”
– David Melding MS (Con, South Wales Central)