Agenda item

Freedom Applications Committee

To consider a recommendation in relation to an Honorary Freedom.




(Alderman Sir David Wootton)

30 July 2019

The Honorary Freedom

Following the passing of a motion at Court of Common Council in January 2019, the Freedom Applications Committee had commenced the process which could lead to the removal of the Honorary Freedom awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi in 2017. In accordance with this process, the Freedom Applications Committee was required to deliberate on how to proceed and had considered a way forward and now made a recommendation to the Court of Common Council, proposing the suspension of Aung San Suu Kyi’s Honorary Freedom.


The Chairman spoke to introduce the report, explaining the rationale behind the proposals.


Munsur Ali spoke to make clear that his explicit intention throughout the process, including through the submission of his Motion in January 2019, was for the Honorary Freedom to be revoked. He observed that this had been made clear to all Members and expressed his firm belief that the Court had fully understood this when coming to its decision in January 2019. Consequently, he articulated his significant concerns that the will of the Court was not being followed.


Ruby Sayed spoke to support this position, noting that substantial debate had taken place over the past two years. The period of delay had served to demonstrate that the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar was only deteriorating and that Aung San Suu Kyi would not speak out against the atrocities taking place. The January 2019 Motion had been clear in that it was seeking revocation; furthermore, there was no established process for suspension and, consequently, the Freedom Applications Committee was now acting outside of the Court’s instructions and ultra vires, thereby undermining the Court’s sovereignty.


Amendment – That the recommendation be altered such that the word “suspended” be replaced with the word “revoked”, i.e. to read “It is recommended that the Honorary Freedom awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi be revoked”.


Members proceeded to debate the Amendment.


A number of Members spoke to support the Amendment, arguing that there had been no doubt when the Motion was passed in January 2019 that the intention had been to revoke the Honorary Freedom. Members expressed dismay that an issue they thought had been resolved was now back at the same place, suggesting that the clear and express will of the Court was being frustrated. The argument that Aung San Suu Kyi might not have seen or been free to reply to correspondence from the Freedom Applications Committee was refuted, with it observed that an equally valid inference was that she had received the letters and determined not to respond. Equally, it was observed that she was not under house arrest and continued to travel internationally, speaking at events. An opportunity to respond had been provided and a lengthy period of time expended on this matter; it was, therefore, now past time to take the final action.


A number of Members spoke in opposition to the Amendment, arguing that the Court had elected to commence the process to revoke the Honorary Freedom, not to revoke directly, and that the process included seeking a response in accordance with the principles of natural justice. It was suggested that this was not consistent with the suggestion that the Court had made a clear decision to revoke in January, as otherwise there would have been no point in seeking a response. Further, Members expressed a hesitancy to act with finality given the number of unknowns in relation to her ability to speak out or respond to correspondence, and the lack of any concrete evidence of complicity. Consequently, suspension was felt to be a pragmatic solution which sent a clear and strong message of condemnation, but which allowed for any new evidence emerging to be taken into account and allowed an element of latitude accordingly.


The suggestion was also made that there remained a lack of clarity around the revocation process and matters were sufficiently unclear that the report should be withdrawn, with another committee such as Policy and Resources asked to intercede.


Ruby Sayed spoke to summarise her position and urging that the will of the Court as expressed in January 2019 be acted upon, with no further prevarication. She also expressed significant qualms as to the legitimacy of suspension as an option, in the absence of any specified process.


Alderman Sir David Wootton spoke to close debate on the Amendment and summarise his position, noting that the Committee had sought to undertake its duty in considering relevant matters and deciding how to proceed in accordance with the principles of natural justice, whilst recognising the strong feelings on all sides.


Deputy Edward Lord raised a point of order, pursuant to Standing Order 11(6), which sought clarity in relation to a perceived implication in Alderman Sir David Wootton’s closing remarks that Committees might not be bound to act in accordance with resolutions of the Court. The Lord Mayor clarified that the Court was, ultimately, sovereign, and that Committees were bound to follow its direction. In this instance, he ruled that the Freedom Applications Committee had acted in accordance with the resolution to commence the process to revoke the Honorary Freedom by bringing, as part of that process, a proposal for suspension to the Court. He emphasised that the Court remained, in this instance and in the generality, the final decision-maker.


Upon the Amendment being put, the Lord Mayor declared it to be lost.


A Division being demanded and granted, there appeared:-


For the Affirmative 34




Abrahams, G.C.

Addy, K.C

Ameer, R.B.

Anderson, R.K.

Bastow, A.M.

Bottomley, K.D.F., Deputy

Broeke, T.

Chadwick, R.A.H., O.B.E., Deputy

Chapman, J.D.

Dostalova, K.

Dunphy, P.G.

Durcan, J.M.




Graham., T.

Harrower, G.G

Hill, C.

Knowles-Cutler, A.

Lawrence, G.A.

Lord, C.E., O.B.E., J.P., Deputy

Martinelli, P.N.

McMurtrie, A.S., J.P.

Moys. S.D. 

Murphy, B.D.

Nash, J.C., O.B.E., Deputy

Packham, G.D.


Pimlott, W.

Pritchard, J.P.

Rogula, E., Deputy

Sayed, R.

Scott, J.G.S., J.P.

Thomson, J.M.D., Deputy

Tomlinson, J., Deputy

Upton, W., Q.C.

Wright, D.L.



Tellers for the affirmative – (Affirmative) Munsur Ali and Deputy Jamie Ingham Clark (Negative).


For the Negative 39




Anstee, N.J.

Bowman, Sir Charles

Edhem, E.

Goyal, P.B., O.B.E., J.P.

Howard, R.P.S.




Hughes-Penney, R.

Keaveny, V.T., Sheriff

King, A.J.N., M.Sc.

Langley, S., O.B.E.

Lyons, N.S.L.




Mainelli, Professor, M.R.

Russell, W.A.B.

Wootton, Sir David

Yarrow, Sir Alan



Bennett, J.A., Deputy

Bensted-Smith, N.M., J.P.

Cassidy, M.J., C.B.E., Deputy

Edwards, J.E.

Everett, K.M., Deputy

Haines, C.W

Hayward, C.M.

Hoffman, T.,M.B.E., Deputy


Hudson, M.

Hyde, W.M., Deputy

Mayhew, J.P.

McGuinness, C.S., Deputy

Merrett, R.A., Deputy

Mooney, B.D.F., Deputy

Moss, A.M., Deputy

Newman, B.P., C.B.E.


Patel, D., O.B.E.

Petrie, J.

Pleasance, J.L.

Regan, R.D., O.B.E., Deputy

de Sausmarez, H.J.

Seaton, I.C.N.

Simons, J.L.




Tellers for the negative – (Negative) Alderman Sir Andrew Parmley and Caroline Addy (Affirmative).


Upon the results of the Division being announced, the Lord Mayor declared the Amendment to be lost.


Upon the original Motion being put, the Lord Mayor declared it to be carried.


Resolved – That the Honorary Freedom awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi be suspended.


Supporting documents: