On Monday, the eve of the second anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, her former lover Maj. James Hewitt, received an astonishing torrent of abuse from the British tabloid press. The country’s two largest circulation dailies vied with each other to damn him in the most extravagant terms. The Sun called him a “Judas,” a “heartless beast,” a “rotter,” a “love traitor,” and a “repulsive pariah.” The Mirror described him as a “cad” and a “love rat [who] gives other rodents a bad name.” Hewitt’s offense is that he has written a book of memoirs and sold the rights to another tabloid, the Mail on Sunday, for a reported $750,000.
The book is presumed to draw on 64 love letters written to him by the late princess during their five-year affair that, according to the Mirror, she implored him to burn. Instead, they were stolen from him by a subsequent girlfriend, Anna Ferretti, who tried to sell them to the Mirror for a large sum. Instead of publishing them, the Mirror handed them over to the royal family. Hewitt then successfully sued to get them back but promised to keep them private. His lawyer said Sunday that he intended to keep his promise, but the Mirror reported that “hurtful claims” based on the letters have already been published in American magazines. It also noted coolly that Ferretti, 40, is “extremely ill” with cancer in the south of France.
The two warring tabloids were united in pious indignation against the Mail on Sunday for buying the serialization rights. The Mirror called the paper treacherous and hypocritical, while the Sun said: “The Sun begs everyone to refuse to pay out for the book. And we urge every newspaper to tell Hewitt to get lost.” They were divided, however, about whether a statue of the princess should be erected as a memorial to her. The Mirror, which is pro-statue, has attacked the queen for having expensive monuments made to several of her dead dogs but refusing to support one for Diana. It claimed Monday in its front-page lead that the pop singer Elton John, who sang at Diana’s funeral, is supporting the campaign. But the Sun said in an editorial, “The fact is Princes William and Harry do not WANT a statue. They don’t WANT the nation to go on mourning their mum. … And that, really, is the end of it.”
The Independent of London marked the anniversary of Diana’s death by examining the effects of her crusade to abolish land mines. It said the greatest test is in Angola, the country where she spearheaded her campaign. “In Angola, government forces and Unita rebels are again laying mines more intensively than ever,” it said. While the land mine has been proscribed by three-quarters of U.N. members (not including Russia, China, India and–most important–the United States), Angola remains “its macabre shop window,” the paper said. It and Kosovo were the two countries that have seen most mines laid in the past year.
In Paris, the daily Libération published an interview Monday with Jonas Savimbi, the leader of Angola’s Unita rebel movement, who was a hero of the United States when Ronald Reagan was president but has now been abandoned by it. Savimbi, who still controls about two-thirds of Angola’s territory, blamed his loss of international standing on American opportunism. “Until 1988, we were useful for fighting the Russians and the Cubans in Angola,” he said. “And, without false modesty, by comparison with Nicaragua and Afghanistan, we were the West’s best ‘freedom fighters.’ But once the Russians and the Cubans left, the United States had no use for Unita. Since the big American change of 1992 [the election of Bill Clinton], it has contacted us only to ask us to sign our surrender, and to consent to our political, even physical, liquidation.” The interview, which Libération claims is Savimbi’s first in two years, contained no reference to land mines.
As the people of East Timor voted Monday on their future, the International Herald Tribune ran a comment from Hong Kong blaming the West for exacerbating the tragedy by its “romantic passion for encouraging the pettiest of nationalisms, not least that of the 800,000 inhabitants of half a small island in an archipelago populated by 200 million.” The writer, Philip Bowring, said that the West is “in the grip of self-righteous moralising” over preserving colonial boundaries left by the Portuguese. “If the issue here is Timorese identity, why not a chance for independence for all of Timor?” he wrote. “Or is East Timor defined not by geography and its own ethnicity but by its Portuguese past and the backgrounds of its independence activists?” In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald said in an editorial Monday that, while the vote in East Timor marks a new beginning for the territory, this is also “a day full of foreboding.” The last say over East Timor’s future is with the Indonesians, who must be forced to pay a price for any failure to honor the result of the ballot, it said.
As the prospects for implementing the Northern Ireland peace agreement remain gloomy, the Times of London attacked the British government for appeasing the Irish Republican Army, which has reportedly “exiled” more than 432 people from the province since the signing of the agreement last year. Calling this “a systematic flouting of state authority, a murderous form of gangsterism by which republicans seek to exert their illegal authority over ‘their’ areas,” the paper said in an editorial: “If one could imagine such a process applied across the British Isles, that would be equivalent of nearly 20,000 people violently evicted from their homes. The methods of Slobodan Milosevic are being practised in the country Tony Blair governs. Peace is mocked in our time.”
On its front page, the Times ran a story about an 8-year-old British boy who astonished the chess world Sunday by becoming the youngest person to beat a grandmaster. David Howell defeated John Nunn, one of the world’s leading chess authorities and a former British champion, in a 10-minute match during an official tournament. Nunn shook the boy’s hand, but then abruptly left the room.