Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: terrorism

Freedom Fighters, Terrorists and Ordinary Decent Criminals

 

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Tuesday March 31 2015.

 

Colman's Column3

 

The world was horrified recently at the news that a co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, had deliberately flown his plane into a mountain killing 150 people. Many have commented that this was the ultimate expression of modern narcissism, a trend for suicidal people to want to take others with them without their consent. I wrote last week about how Kieran Conway, in a book in which he calls himself a “freedom fighter”, admitted responsibility for killing 21 innocent young people in the cause of a united Ireland. No one asked those young people what they thought about it. Terrorism is another kind of narcissism.

There are fuzzy boundaries between war, terrorism, crime, politics and business. Politicians use terms like “war on terrorism”, “war on crime”, “war on drugs”. Some might believe that this is part of a plan to militarise civil society. “Freedom fighters” easily morph into criminals as they resort to bank robberies and drug dealing to raise funds for the cause. Many once considered as terrorists later take their place in government.  In Ireland, there was Eamon De Valera and more recently Martin McGuinness. In Kenya there was Jomo Kenyatta; today his son is president and has had his case dropped by the International Criminal Court.

MIA made it into the news again the other day. It was not for any recent achievement but merely about a gripe that she regurgitated concerning the way Oprah Winfrey had treated her some time ago. Suggestions that MIA was terrorist sympathiser led to some people dragging out that old chestnut: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. Whenever this is said, no definition of “freedom fighter” is offered. No examples of bona fide freedom fighters are presented except for Nelson Mandela.

Ronald Reagan called the Nicaraguan Contra rebels freedom fighters. Reagan also frequently called the Afghan Mujahedeen freedom fighters during their war against the Soviet Union, yet twenty years later, when a new generation of Afghan men fought against what they perceived to be a regime installed by foreign powers, George W Bush labelled their attacks “terrorism”.

Professor Martin Rudner, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Ottawa’s Carleton University, says the phrase “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” “is grossly misleading.” It assesses the validity of the cause when it should be addressing terrorism is an act. “One can have a perfectly beautiful cause and yet if one commits terrorist acts, it is terrorism regardless.

Distinguished scholars have devoted their lives to defining terrorism and have admitted failure. In the first edition of Political Terrorism: a Research Guide, Alex Schmid spent a hundred pages examining more than a hundred different definitions of terrorism. Four years and a second edition later, Schmid conceded in the first sentence of the revised volume that the “search for an adequate definition is still on”. Walter Laqueur despaired of defining terrorism in both editions of his  work on the subject, maintaining that it is neither possible to do so nor worthwhile to make the attempt.

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” seems to mean that state authorities sometimes delegitimize opponents, and legitimize the state’s own use of armed force. Critics call this “state terrorism”.

The UN’s attempts to define terrorism failed because of differences of opinion about the use of violence in the context of conflicts over national liberation and self-determination. Since 1994, the UN General Assembly has repeatedly condemned terrorist acts using the following political description of terrorism: “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable”.

Although, in the international community, terrorism has no legally binding, criminal-law definition, there are definitions of “terrorism”. A study on political terrorism examining over 100 definitions of “terrorism” found 22 separate definitional elements. These can be summarised thus: violent acts, which deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants, intended to create fear, perpetrated for a religious, political, or ideological goal.

Bruce Hoffman wrote: “By distinguishing terrorists from other types of criminals and terrorism from other forms of crime, we come to appreciate that terrorism is :

  • ineluctably political in aims and motives
  • violent – or, equally important, threatens violence
  • designed to have far-reaching psychological repercussions beyond the immediate victim or target
  • conducted by an organization with an identifiable chain of command or conspiratorial cell structure (whose members wear no uniform or identifying insignia) and
  • perpetrated by a subnational group or non-state entity.”

 

Everyone agrees that  terrorism is a pejorative term, with intrinsically negative connotations. Use of the term implies a moral judgment.  According to David Rodin, utilitarian philosophers can (in theory) conceive of cases in which the evil of terrorism is outweighed by the good that could not be achieved in a less morally costly way. Michael Walzer argued that terrorism can be morally justified in only one specific case: when “a nation or community faces the extreme threat of complete destruction and the only way it can preserve itself is by intentionally targeting non-combatants, then it is morally entitled to do so”.

Those dubbed “terrorists” by their opponents rarely identify themselves as such, preferring to use other terms such as separatist, freedom fighter, liberator, revolutionary, militant,  guerrilla, rebel,  or patriot.

The use of violent and brutal tactics by criminal organizations for protection rackets or to enforce a code of silence is usually not termed terrorism. However, “terrorists” or “freedom fighters” often use their capacity to intimidate to engage in similar activities to organised crime. While they were purportedly striving to reunite the six counties of Northern Ireland with the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland, the Provisional IRA were also building up a criminal empire. While this might have begun as a means of financing the republican struggle, crime seemed to become an end in itself. The profits of crime might have been a reason for prolonging the conflict.

Raids on illegal distilleries in Ireland uncovered bottling and capping machinery and high- quality copies of brand labels. Many of the products were designed for use in pub optics. The IRA took the production of counterfeit spirits so seriously that it even had a quality control unit.

Conway writes about his participation in bank raids and gun battles. The IRA’s “elite robbery team” unit organised armed robberies using a tactic known as “tiger kidnapping”, where the family of an employee was held hostage to ensure co-operation. The unit played a central role in the theft of £26.5 million from the Northern Bank just before Christmas 2004 and organized three other robberies which netted a further £3 million in that  year.

According to Customs Revenue officers, about half of Northern Ireland’s filling stations sold fuel smuggled from the Irish Republic, where duty was considerably lower, at a cost to the Treasury of about £200 million a year. Fuel smuggling, much of it organized by the notorious South Armagh brigade, was probably the IRA’s single largest source of income.

The paramilitaries were involved in pirating DVDs and software and the IRA’s links with America gave it access to new releases. The IRA’s counterfeiting operations extended to fake football strips, designer clothes, power tools and a well-known brand of washing powder. A bottle of counterfeit perfume seized at a market was found to contain urine as a stabilizer.

Often the IRA invested as a silent partner in legitimate businesses. The IRA’s finance unit contributed to Belfast’s property boom by investing in houses.

The IRA received up to $6 million (£3.1 million) for helping to train  rebels in Colombia. The payment was allegedly negotiated by a former IRA “chief of staff” who had worldwide contacts — including in Libya, where republicans deposited some of the proceeds from their vast criminal empire.

The Irish gangster Martin Cahill was the subject of two feature films. In The General, Brendan Gleeson played him. In Ordinary Decent Criminals, Kevin Spacey played him. Cahill was involved in petty crime from an early age and turned to armed robbery after stealing arms from a police station. O’Connor’s jewellers at Harold’s Cross, Dublin was forced to close, with the loss of more than one hundred jobs after Cahill stole €2.55 million worth of gold and diamonds from the store.

In 1994, a gunman, who was armed with a .357 Magnum , shot Cahill in the face and torso, jumped on a motorbike and disappeared from the scene. The IRA said that it was Cahill’s “involvement with and assistance to pro-British death squads which forced us to act”. One theory is that John Gilligan, who was convicted of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin (also shot by a motorcyclist), had Cahill killed because he was trying to get a slice of Gilligan’s drug profits.

Gilligan effectively had the complicit support of the Dublin IRA and had members of the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) in his pay. He was importing enough cannabis to make everybody rich. He was even importing small arms, which he passed on to republicans as sweeteners.

The IRA established links with organized crime in the same areas of the Costa del Sol where many of Dublin’s top “ordinary” criminals, the “Murphia”, lived. The Murphia became the wholesale middlemen and women who supplied parts of the UK drugs markets after developing links with their British counterparts.

The dissident republican group the Real IRA was responsible for murders, attempted murders and pipe bomb attacks in the Republic. The group is believed to be extorting millions of Euros from targeting drug dealers — as well as business people — in Dublin and Cork. The Real IRA have taken over many of the security and protection rackets once run by the Provos. The dissidents are also believed to be selling some of these bombs to gangs including criminal elements within the Travelling community.

The Provisional IRA funded its terrorist activities with bank robberies and protection rackets. Martin McGuinness was the IRA Commandant for Derry. He and Gerry Adams were prominent in the labyrinthine negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement and the IRA laying down its arms. As a minister in the government of the statelet of Northern Ireland, McGuinness   visited Sri Lanka to advise us on peace and reconciliation. Sinn Fein, which used to be seen by voters in the Republic as the proxy of the Provisional IRA, is a major Opposition force in the Dáil today and is often mentioned as a possible coalition member of the government. Fiachra Gibbons, in the New Statesman, described Sinn Fein as “a kind of cross between Fianna Fáil and the Catholic Church, but with extra guns, paedophiles and front businesses.”

In Sri Lanka, the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) was mainly dependent for funding in its early days on robberies and extortion.  Trading in gold, laundering money and dealing in narcotics brought the LTTE substantial revenue to buy sophisticated weaponry. They also played a role in providing passports, other papers, and also engaged in human trafficking

Those who carried out the Easter Rising in 1916 are seen in a romantic light compared to the bombers of today. However, like the bombers of today, they  believed they were entitled, although they were but a small unelected group of conspirators in a democratic country, to stage a revolution in which many innocent people were killed. “Armed struggle” generally means fanatics killing innocents by remote control. The whole point of terrorism is to induce fear among non-combatants. It is a bit rich for those committing these acts of terror against civilians to call themselves freedom fighters. Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public for political purposes are abhorrent, whatever political or philosophical justifications are presented.

 

 

Choosing Martyrdom?

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday March 252012

Two months before my father’s birth, Irish rebels fought the British Empire. My father encouraged my interest in Irish history and told me about “800 years of British oppression” and the genocide caused by Cromwell and later by the free trade dogma that allowed the 1845 famine to be so lethal.

In my callow youth I wondered whether, had I lived in Ireland in the 1920s, I would have been out there fighting the British. However, even reading, when I was a child, mainstream history and popular biographies about the Easter Rising, I realised that the Easter rebels had no popular support. The interpretation of this used to be that the general populace was feckless and needed waking up by the sacrifice of these brave men. Look at the shiftless Dublin jackeens in Sean O’Casey’s plays.

Pearse and his colleagues believed they were entitled, although they were but a small, unelected group of conspirators in a democratic country, to stage a revolution in 1916 in which innocent people were killed.

On St Patrick’s Day, I posted an article on Groundviews examining the idea of rebellion and martyrdom. I was prompted to write the article by disturbing comments on Colombo Telegraph by one ‘Thanga’ glorifying Prabhakaran: “Prabhakaran is the only leader whose birthday is celebrated right around the globe in a grand scale! Prabhakaran was a brave, selfless and dedicated leader who lived by example. A leader who never slept on a mat or used a pillow!” For some Tamils, Prabhakaran had the status of a demi-god. A Tamil Catholic priest, Fr S. J. Emmanuel, compared him to Jesus. As recently as May 2011, in Tamil Nadu, MDMK chief Vaiko was saying the war for Eelam was not over; Prabhakaran was not dead and would emerge from hiding at the right time. According to Victor Rajakulendran, the LTTE remains a shining example, a ‘good history,’ for all Sri Lankan Tamils to follow.

http://groundviews.org/2012/03/17/martyrology-martyrdom-rebellion-terrorism/

 
One commenter wrote, seemingly approvingly, about a ‘national consciousness’ in which the abuses of the past are not forgotten but remain vibrant and alive in the form of a collective memory. Another seemed to approve of the use of martyrdom as a reward offered “to the young recruit if they die during the battle against the oppressors because they do not have anything else to offer”. Another said: “The IRA and the LTTE had to make the best of whatever resources they had.” The best resources the Real IRA have are about 150 volunteers and bombs with which to kill tourists and pregnant women.

 
The leading figure in the 1916 rising was Padraic Pearse, a poet and playwright, founder of a number of Gaelic schools. Pearse welcomed martyrdom: “I care not though I were to live but one day and one night, if only my fame and my deeds live after me”. “We might make mistakes in the beginning and shoot the wrong people: but bloodshed is a cleansing and sanctifying thing”. He developed a sacrificial notion that his cause was comparable with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Pearse wrote about the beauty of boys dying bravely in their prime, before the shoddy compromises of adult life corrupted them.

 
The logistics of the Easter Rising were designed to maximise ‘bloody sacrifice’ of civilians. Buildings were chosen for occupation to maximise injury to persons and property.

By the time Pearse surrendered after six days, only 64 rebels had been killed (including 15 executed). In the World War, 25,000 Irishmen died fighting as members of the British Army. The majority of the killed and wounded were civilians. Both sides, British and rebel, shot civilians deliberately, on occasion, when they refused to obey orders such as to stop at checkpoints. All 16 police fatalities and 22 of the British soldiers killed were Irishmen. Rebel and civilian casualties were 318 dead and 2,217 wounded.

The rebels who were executed were regarded as martyrs and prayed to as well as for. A tradition of hunger striking meant there were Provisional IRA martyrs up to the 1980s.The death of Bobby Sands in 1981 resulted in a new surge of IRA recruitment and activity. His sister Bernadette and her husband Michael McKevitt founded the Real IRA, who refused to accept the Good Friday Agreement. Sands’s sister said: “Bobby did not die for cross-border bodies with executive powers. He did not die for nationalists to be equal British citizens within the Northern Ireland state”.

On 15 August 1998, 29 people died and 220 were injured as a result of a Real IRA bomb at Omagh, County Tyrone. The victims included Protestants, Catholics, a Mormon, nine children, a woman pregnant with twins, Irish tourists and two Spanish tourists. Bobby may have made a conscious decision to “die for Ireland”. The victims of Omagh did not.

 
Former Provo, Danny Morrison, explained in a Pearse documentary Fanatic Heart, that Pearse’s rhetoric was useful to the Provos when they were making war, but is inconvenient when they are trying to make peace. Did the 1916 Rising set an unfortunate and tragic precedent? Omagh is a result keeping past abuses alive in the national consciousness. Omagh represents an example of using whatever resources are available in the fight against the oppressor.

How will the Real IRA be celebrating the 96th anniversary of the Easter Rising? As I write, car bombs are being found all over Ireland.

 

 

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/feature-issues/item/4309-choosing-martyrdom?.html#sthash.oK6Kmecu.dpuf

 

Lanka’s oil rich hopes

This article was published in The Nation on November 20 2011

 

In his treatise Petroleo y Dependencia, Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, principle architect of OPEC, wrote: “Oil will bring us ruin. It’s the devil’s excrement. We are drowning in the devil’s excrement.”

 

Once again, fantasies of Sri Lanka becoming oil-rich are bubbling to the greasy surface.

 

Sri Lanka imports nearly 30 million barrels of oil a year, which is used to generate electricity as well as for transport, every year. This used to cost around $800 million a year. In 2005, it cost $1.64 billion. In 2006, higher international prices took the bill to $2.2 billion. Add to this, $19 million per month in subsidies, the knock-on effect of transport costs on prices and the never-ending cost of war and reconstruction and one can see why the government would like to have its own oil.

 

India started exploring the Cauvery Basin in the Palk Straits as long ago as 1954, drilling 100 test wells. From 2000, India started production from fields close to Sri Lanka at the rate of 1,000 barrels per day. In the late 1970s, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, assisted by US and Russian companies, drilled seven test wells on and offshore in the Gulf of Mannar Basin without success. India’s success encouraged Sri Lanka to try again. The Cauvery and Gulf of Mannar basins are said to be associated with rift complexes of the Late-Jurassic-Cretaceous Age and have the potential to yield 100 million barrels.

 
Gamble

 

An oil bonanza cannot be confidently predicted without drilling. Offshore wells require more than $10 million each and the investor loses it all if the well is dry. It will be at least five years before there is any return on the investment.

 

The Director General of Petroleum Resources, Dr Neil R de Silva said in January 2007 that the picture was still “fuzzy” about how viable the fields were. “One of the requirements oil companies would be expected to meet in getting a licence for oil exploration would be a benefits plan – this would ensure employment for Sri Lankans and enable Sri Lankan manufacturers and service providers to take part on a competitive basis to supply goods and services.” He added that they must be competitive, efficient and trained. How can that work? He conceded that there was a serious shortage of professionals to work in the field and that the industry needs to train a certified labour force. There are no petroleum professionals coming through the education system.

 

The number of local people employed after the construction phase of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline was negligible in Cameroon and around 350 in Chad. In Ecuador, 50,000 new jobs a month were promised; there have been only 9,000 new jobs so far, mostly unskilled and temporary.

 

De Silva gave the Sunday Observer an update in March 2011. He did not sound very positive to me: “with the available data it is not possible to estimate the amount of oil in the Mannar Basin confidently… At the beginning of the oil production process, the Sri Lankan Government’s share would be 15% and Cairn Lanka’s 85% … As the years go by, Sri Lanka’s share will increase to … 85% while Cairn Lanka’s share will come down to …15%”.

 

Oil and corruption

 

As long ago as 2004, Transparency International estimated that billions of dollars were lost to bribery in public purchasing and oil seemed to guarantee corruption. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Angola, Azerbaijan, Chad, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya, Nigeria, Russia, Sudan, Venezuela and Yemen were highly corrupt. Public contracting in the oil sector is plagued by vanishing revenues.

 
Inequality

 

Even if Sri Lanka’s oil exploration is successful, it is unlikely that many citizens will benefit. Venezuela is to some extent an exception in that government policy has been to use oil to improve the lot of the people as a whole. Even with Chavez’s reforms, problems persist and Caracas is one of the three most violent cities in the world.

 

Prof. Michael Ross of UCLA produced a chart mapping oil sales against literacy and malnutrition. Every 5% rise in oil exports was matched by a three-month fall in life-expectancy and a one-point rise in childhood malnutrition. Sri Lanka currently enjoys good WHO indicators, but child malnutrition figures are causing concern. This could get worse with the ‘benefits’ of oil.

 
Terrorism and environment

 

Spillages from sabotage sometimes occur. In Colombia and Nigeria, guerrillas persistently targeted pipelines. In 1995, the LTTE attacked CPC refinery and oil storage installations in Colombo causing several deaths and massive fires in the storage areas. Security fears undermine human rights. In more recent times the LTTE air force targeted oil installations.
The seismic vibrations generated by drilling can adversely affect buildings and the chemicals used can also deplete aquatic life in rivers and streams. Pollution can occur because of human error, sudden rupture of pipelines, or instrument failures.

 
Conclusion

 

So, does Sri Lanka want to be a nation where foreigners call the shots – a polluted nation, plagued by poverty and inequality; where corruption, dynastic elites and nepotism compromise good governance and erode human rights?

 

Does Sri Lanka deserve the blessing of oil?

Jihad on Baltimore

Muslim terrorists attack Baltimore and kidnap citizens into slavery.

What’s Bogie got to do with it? 

bogie

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sailing on the ferry to Sherkin Island in the Atlantic off the coast of West Cork, I tried to imagine what it must have been like to see a pirate vessel from North Africa appear over the horizon and sail into Roaring Water Bay.

Murat Reis

Around two in the morning on Sunday 19 June 1631, the inhabitants of the town of Baltimore, West Cork, Ireland woke up screaming as their doors were splintered by iron bars and their thatched roofs set alight. As they ran into the streets they were confronted by Janissaries waving curved sabres and screaming like demons.

“A stifled gasp, a dreamy noise! ‘The roof is in a flame!’

From out their beds and to their doors rush maid and sire and dame,

And meet upon the threshold stone the gleaming sabre’s fall,

And o’er each black and bearded face the white or crimson shawl.

The yell of “Allah!” breaks above the prayer, and shriek, and roar:

O blessed God! the Algerine is lord of Baltimore!”

Thomas Davis thomas davis

230 musketeers divided themselves into 26 attack squads – one for each homestead. Timothy Curlew put up a brave resistance and was hacked to death, as was John Davis. However, the basic aim was to take as many alive as possible. Within a very short time 109 villagers, four-fifths of them women and children, 50 of them children, were being herded onto waiting boats. Two were released because they were too infirm to be profitable.

Why did this particular ship turn up at this particular time on the coast of County Cork? This European raid by Barbary pirates was not as unusual as one might have thought. Barbary pirates operated from the time of the crusades until the 19th century. They were based along the stretch of North Africa known as the Barbary Coast after the Berber inhabitants. The Ottoman Pashas were little more than figureheads in North Africa. Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli were independent bases for pirates in the business of capturing and trading in slaves. They carried out razzias or predatory raids throughout the Mediterranean and as far north as Iceland, capturing Christians to sell in the slave markets of Algeria and Morocco.  From the 16th to the 19th century, it is estimated that as many as 1.25 million Christians were kidnapped.

It would not have been a pleasant cruise on the Algerian ship. The dark, dank warren would have been home to rats and cockroaches and everyone crawled with lice. Arrival in Algiers would have been a great shock to the systems of simple villagers who had never been outside their own parish. A contingent of established Christian slaves got entertainment from jeering at new arrivals. The captors did not recognise Europeans as full human beings and did not worry about breaking up families. They were put on sale in the Bedistan market.

A French priest, Father Pierre Dan reported how “they sold on the one hand the husbands, on the other the wives, ripping their daughters from their arms, leaving them no hope of ever seeing each other again.” Buyers would have been interested in three classes of females: virgin girls, skilled craft workers and the outstandingly beautiful, meaning of ample proportions and fair-skinned. An English slave, Joseph Pitts reported that buyers would stick their fingers in the women’s mouths, squeeze their bosoms and check their virginity ‘in a modest way’. They made them walk up and down to check ‘the bounciness of their breasts’.

From-Baltimore-to-Barbary-the-1631-sack-of-Baltimore-2

Of the Baltimore women, Ellen Hawkins was worth about six horses and Joane Broadbrook about eight oxen. Joane Broadbrook would have been sold for the price today of a ten-year-old hatchback. The profits from the sale of the captives would have been shared out. Half of the proceeds would go to the investors in the kidnapping mission including the ship’s captain. The other half was divided up amongst the ship’s company. Each seaman would get three parts and each Janissary got half a seaman’s cut because they were already on salary. The captain got 40 parts bringing his total take to around  $73,000 in today’s money.

The imperial harem would normally be a sedate place and there were periods when the royal palace was ruled by females. Unfortunately, the period when the Baltimore women arrived coincided with the reigns of the two most debauched sultans in history. Murad was only in his twenties but the entire nation feared his unpredictable rages. He executed a cook on the spot when he was dissatisfied with dinner. He sat on the sea shore randomly shooting his subjects as they passed by. He once, on a whim, ordered a whole boatload of women to be sunk. He died at the age of 28 when he had a seizure following a gargantuan drunken spree which coincided with a solar eclipse.

Sultan-İbrahim

A skilled oarsman like Tom Paine, one of the Baltimore captives, would have been highly valued as a galley slave, but the value would not reduce the brutality with which he was treated. The life of a galley slave was described as being like ‘a species of hell’, chained three to an oar, constantly lashed and prodded. Their heads were shaved and they had nothing to cover them but a filthy cape. Their only lodging was to lie on a bare board and they had to subsist on bread soaked with a little wine.

Other slaves were put to work on state farms. Captain John Smith (of Virginia fame) was once a slave and described being ‘treated like a dog’ threshing corn. There are reports of men pulling ploughs like horses with metal bits in their teeth. Some worked in quarries pulling 40-ton rocks for two miles on sleds. Others worked in the blazing sun on construction sites.

There were methods of escaping from slavery. You could be ransomed by family or friends. You could save the pittances gleaned from working and buy yourself out. You could be ransomed through charity. Your release could be negotiated by treaty by your home government. Your patron might release you, usually because you had converted to Islam. You might try to escape.

Fifteen years after the raid on Baltimore, in September 1646, an English ship, the Charles, appeared in the bay of Algiers. On board was Edward Cason an envoy dispatched by Parliament to negotiate the release of hundreds of English and Irish slaves. Cason compiled a register and calculated that there were 650 in Algiers and another 100 in the Turkish fleet at Crete. There was an acceptance that he could not recover those who had converted to Islam ‘through beating and hard usage’, those children being raised in local households and those who had converted and been spirited away to other ports in the east. The patrons drove a hard bargain, citing the increase in value of some of the slaves who had been taught crafts and skills. Cason reckoned that he only had funds to ransom 250 slaves. In the end 264 were ‘redeemed and sent home’.

There were captives from all over the British Isles but only two from Baltimore – Joane Broadbrook and Ellen Hawkins. What had happened to the other 105? The average post-infancy life expectancy in the 17th century was about 60 and Algiers at that time was one of the world’s more healthy locations. In London bedpans were tipped into the street. In Algiers, there was piped sewage and clean running water. The streets were kept clean by an army of workers.

One of the authorities on this subject, John de Courcy Ireland, said that few showed any enthusiasm for returning. There may have been elements of the Stockholm syndrome. Slavery might have been an improvement on the drudgery they had been snatched from in the fish factory back home. Many may have been successfully integrated into Algiers society. Life may have been more pleasant and social mobility more possible in this ancient sunny town than in rainy, windy West Cork.

A greedy and corrupt English navy had failed to protect them and failed to pursue the pirates. Some may have felt betrayed and abandoned and resistant to returning to their former home. Looking back to the circumstances of the raid, the details become even more bizarre.

My friend, Richard Boyle, is editor of Travel Sri Lanka, author of the books Knox’s Words and Sinbad in Serendib and a contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary. His namesake was Joint Administrator of Ireland and Great Earl of Cork in 1631 and he owned great chunks of the county (stolen from the natives of course) including Midleton where I lived before coming to live in Sri Lanka. His son, Robert Boyle, was a noted scientist, author of Boyle’s Law and The Sceptical Chymist. The Earl was a prime target himself and had previously narrowly avoided capture by pirates. After this, he had placed spies among them and knew that the price on his head was around 390,000 GBP. He received a tip-off that there was going to be a raid but did not know where and could not persuade the government to take precautions.

1stEarlOfCork

Boyle had many enemies and did not want to dig too deeply lest his own financial shenanigans would be exposed. John Hackett (see below for his part in the episode) was chosen as a scapegoat and was dragged across country behind a galloping horse and hanged on a high cliff.

Boyle could have done more to effect the release of the Baltimore slaves. The amount he spent on a single present for his daughter could have paid the ransom for all the Baltimore women.

 Other aspects are surprising: the pirate captain was not a Berber; the captives were not Irish. A list of the names of the 107 Baltimore residents who were taken to Algiers is in the archives. A strange coincidence that  one of them wascalled Tom Paine. They were all descended from English Protestants who settled in Ireland after leaving Devon and Cornwall.

jan janzsoon

The captain of the pirate ship was known as Murat Reis the Younger but he was born in Haarlem in the Netherlands and was formerly called Jan Janszoon.    Janszoon married a Moorish woman of African Berber origin, by whom he fathered several children.

The captives were of English Protestant origin but they were not aggressive usurpers like the Presbyterians in Ulster. They were refugees who had fled to Ireland to escape the oppressive rule of Elizabeth I. Their leader was Thomas Crooke who found the Irish Anglican hierarchy more sympathetic than the established church in England. In 1624 he was knighted. At the time of the raid their settlement had been established for 30 years and their children had known no other home than Baltimore.

They had paid a substantial rental to lease the land from a local chieftain, Fineen O’Driscoll. Why did these particular ships turn up at this particular time on the coast of County Cork? They were piloted by John Hackett from Dungarvan in Waterford whose 12-ton fishing boat had been captured by the corsairs at the Old Head of Kinsale. It may be that Hackett helped them willingly in order to guide them away from his home town.

There was considerable tension between Catholics and Protestants in the area at the time. Hackett, a Catholic, guided the fighting forces of Islam towards the Protestant English community at Baltimore. They anchored at the entrance to the Eastern Hole, concealed by a rocky outcrop out of view of the main port at the seaward base of a narrow triangular inlet bounded by treacherous rocks and cliffs. Murat carried out a full reconnaissance before the full attack. He went in a small boat with deadened oars accompanied by ten musketeers.

The small boat was piloted by one Captain Fawlett, who seemed to have had an intimate knowledge of the village, including the occupancy of individual houses. Fawlett was from Dartmouth in Devon and had been captured by the corsairs in the St George’s Channel, 60 miles from Cornwall. He became an active supporter of the Barbary slavers volunteering his detailed knowledge of the ports of southern Ireland.

It is unlikely that he had been coerced because he was released after the raid. Was his encounter with the corsairs pre-arranged? The settlers were being harassed by a lawyer called Walter Coppinger who wanted to expel the settlers and take over the port of Baltimore for himself. As well as being a shyster lawyer and a money lender Coppinger seems like a character from a Hammer horror movie. Legend has it that he started his career as page boy to Sir Walter Raleigh on Raleigh’s estate at Youghal (stolen from the Irish people). He made a fortune through cheating and intimidation. It was said that he had a yard arm fixed to the gable of his house ‘a gallows wherewith to hang the victims of his unlicensed power.’

Coppinger gave his fourteen-year old niece, Jeanette, in marriage to the wealthy Walter Grant, who was almost eighty. Grant soon died and Coppinger managed the estate, putting his name on all the documents leaving Jeanette penniless. She knew she could not get justice in Cork because uncle was well known for knobbling juries, so she took her case to Dublin. The furious Coppinger punched her in the mouth and knocked out all her teeth and got her sent to gaol for four years. One of his clients, Ellen ni Driscoll, discovered that he had tampered with her deeds and put her estate in his own name. Heavily pregnant, she begged for funds from him. ‘He did batter her in a most cruel manner and threw her over a cliff into the sea’. She survived but lost the baby.

After years of intense wrangling through the courts plus harassment and intimidation, Coppinger secured ownership of Baltimore, confirmed by Chancery and upheld by the Lords Justices. However, the courts had decreed that the settlers had invested too much in the settlement at Baltimore to be evicted even after the lease expired in 1631. Coppinger had won his long battle but his victory was tainted by the fact that he was stuck with recalcitrant sitting tenants.

coppinger

Coppinger was the only man in Ireland to benefit from the pirate raid. He was rich enough and vicious enough to pay any price to settle a grudge. He had a history of hiring musclemen to do his bidding. It would not be beyond him to hire Mussulmen.

Murat had offered to renounce his Muslim faith and serve King Charles but he had been rebuffed. He hated the English. Baltimore had been a haven for pirates but the English settlers had frozen them out. He had two heavily armed warships and 280 elite fighting troops, which suggests he was on a serious mission. He tootled around the English coast for a long time attacking small merchantmen and fishing boats before sailing 50 miles west to attack a small village that depended on pilchards.

On June 20 1610, an agreement was signed to hand over Baltimore to Coppinger in 21 years’ time. Twenty-one years to the day from the date that agreement was signed, Murat’s corsairs arrived and removed the English settlers from Baltimore. Was Murat on a contract with Coppinger to cleanse Baltimore of the English Protestant settlers? Bad Karma got Coppinger soon enough though – the vast pilchard shoals which made Baltimore profitable suddenly stopped coming and in 1636 Coppinger leased out the village.

There is another implication arising from the story. Historian WJ Kingston has suggested that the raid may have been a major factor in the execution of Charles I. The Ship Money tax was normally imposed on coastal towns in order to equip warships. Charles, fearing a repetition of the corsair raid, extended the tax to inland communities in order to strengthen the navy. He did this without the consent of Parliament which produced such opposition that civil war and regicide followed. From then on no autocrat in Europe was safe.

What’s Bogart got to do with it?

Murat Reis aka Janszoon fathered several children by his Berber wife. Two of them, Abraham Jansz (a common Burgher name in Sri Lanka) and Anthony Jansen van Salee, took up the family trade of piracy. They were among the early settlers of New Amsterdam, settling in what is now Coney Island and Brooklyn. Among van Salee’s descendants were Humphrey Bogart, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jackie Kennedy, John Hammond (producer of Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan) and John Hammond Jr (blues singer).

Des Ekin

Most of the information in this article came from a wonderful book by an Irish journalist called Des Ekin called ‘The Stolen Village’, published by the O’Brien Press, Dublin http://www.o’brien.ie. There is even more fascinating material in the book, available from Amazon.

Terrorism, Business, Politics and Ordinary Decent Criminals

I posted this article on Open Salon on March 26 2011. I will be rewriting the article to bring it up to date in the light of recent developments in Sri Lanka and Ireland.

Terrorism, Business, Politics and Ordinary Decent Criminals

There are fuzzy boundaries between war, terrorism, crime, politics and business. Politicians use terms like “war on terrorism”, “war on crime”. “war on drugs”. Some might believe that this is part of a plan to militarise civil society. “Freedom fighters” easily morph into criminals as they resort to bank robberies and drug dealing to raise funds for the cause. Many once considered as terrorists later take their place in government.

Northern Ireland

On the right of the picture, a young Martin McGuinness at an IRA funeral

 
While they were purportedly striving to reunite the six counties of Northern Ireland with the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland, the Provisional IRA were also building up a criminal empire. While this might have begun as a means of financing the republican struggle,  crime seemed to become an end in itself. The profits of crime might have been a reason for prolonging the conflict.

 

 

IRA leadership 1972 – Martin McGuinness on the left of the picture.

 
Raids on illegal distilleries in Ireland uncovered bottling and capping machinery and high- quality copies of brand labels. Many of the products were designed for use in pub optics. The IRA took  the production of counterfeit spirits so seriously that it even had a quality control unit.

 

Ordinary Decent Irish Criminals

Martin Cahill with a truly criminal wrap-over hair style
The Irish gangster Martin Cahill was the subject of two feature films. In The General he was played by Brendan Gleeson. In Ordinary Decent Criminals he was played by Kevin Spacey. Cahill was involved in petty crime from an early age and turned to armed robbery after stealing arms from a police station. O’Connor’s jewelers was forced to close, with the loss of more than one hundred jobs after Cahill stole €2.55 million worth of gold and diamonds from the store at Harold’s Cross.

In 1994, a gunman, who was armed with a .357 Magnum , shot Cahill in the face and torso, jumped on a motorbike and disappeared from the scene. The IRA said that it was Cahill’s “involvement with and assistance to pro-British death squads which forced us to act”. One theory is that John Gilligan, who was convicted of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin (also shot by a motorcyclist in a hit similar to the murder of Sri Lankan editor Lasantha Wickrematunge), had Cahill killed because he was trying to get a slice of Gilligan’s drug profits.

John Gilligan
Gilligan effectively had the complicit support of the Dublin IRA and had members of the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) in his pay. He was importing enough cannabis to make everybody rich. He was even importing small arms which he passed on to republicans as sweeteners.

The rate of murders in the Irish Republic that can be attributed to organized criminals, all involved in drugs, has trebled since the period before the murder of Veronica Guerin.

 

Veronica Guerin
The Murphia on the Costa del Crime

The IRA established links with organized crime in the same areas of the Costa del Sol where many of Dublin’s top “ordinary” criminals, the “Murphia”,  lived. The Murphia became the wholesale middlemen and women who supplied parts of the UK drugs markets after developing  links with their British counterparts.

The dissident republican group, the Real IRA, has been responsible for murders, attempted murders and pipe bomb attacks in the Republic. The group is believed to be extorting millions of Euros from targeting drug dealers — as well as business people — in Dublin and Cork. The Real IRA have taken over many of the security and protection rackets once run by the Provos. The dissidents are also believed to be selling some of these bombs to gangs including criminal elements within the Travelling community. In 2009, the Army Ordnance Corps dealt with 61 live bombs and 140 hoax bombs. In 2010, they dealt with 40 live bombs, mostly in Dublin.

Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein

Not Laurel and Hardy – McGuinness and Paisley
The Provisional IRA funded its activities with bank robberies and protection rackets. Martin McGuinness was the IRA Commandant for Derry. He and Gerry Adams were prominent in the labyrinthine negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement and the IRA laying down its arms. McGuinness  was  a minister in the government of the statelet of Northern Ireland until he resigned to run of the presidency of the Irish Republic. He visited  Sri Lanka to advise us on peace and reconciliation. In the Republic’s last general election, Gerry Adams for Sinn Fein topped the poll in Louth, in the north-east, with more than 15,000 votes. Sinn Fein, which used to be seen by voters in the Republic as the proxy of the Provisional IRA, has scored its best-ever election result in the Republic with 14 seats and will be a major Opposition force in the new Dáil. Fiachra Gibbons, in the New Statesman, described Sinn Fein as “a kind of cross between Fianna Fáil and the Catholic Church, but with extra guns, paedophiles and front businesses.”

 

The Tamil Tiger Mafia

Prabhakaran
In Sri Lanka, the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) was mainly dependent for funding in the early days on robberies and extortion.  Trading in gold, laundering money and dealing in narcotics brought the LTTE substantial revenue to buy sophisticated weaponry. They also played a role in providing passports, other papers, and also engaged in human trafficking.

KP – the Tamil Tigers’   leading arms procurer, now working with the government he sought to topple.

Crime Pays and so Does War

There were those on “the other side” who profited from the conflict continuing for so long. As in Ireland, Sri Lankan politicians and businessmen are accused of taking commissions to do favors. War is a profitable business.

Former Army Commander, Sarath Fonseka, fought the presidential election in January 2010 on a platform of rooting out corruption and nepotism. An Asian Tribune article, published on November 22, 2009,  was entitled “Every bullet fired at innocent Tamil civilians fetched kickbacks to Gen Fonseka family”.  One of the charges against Fonseka  was that he was involved in corrupt arms deals with his son-in-law, Danuna Thilakaratne. Thilakeratne’s company Hicorp, was involved in the purchase of MIGs from Ukraine, uniform and telecommunication equipment from China, food rations from Malaysia and tank transporters from Russia. Hicorp also supplied ration packs, which were past their shelf life and bought cheaply from a Malaysia. Thilakaratne started many new businesses in Sri Lanka, such as a beauty salon at the Galle Face Hotel,  as well as   a salon in Las Vegas, and a communication company in London. He invested millions of dollars in the American and Sri Lankan stock markets. Where did he get this money? After police investigated his bank accounts, Thilakaratne fled the country. Fonseka is in Welikada prison.


The Asian Tribune has also accused Fonseka of selling off army land rovers for his own profit. When Fonseka was Army  Commander, he forced the Army Board to condemn many serviceable army vehicles which found their way to Dhanuna’s friend , who bought them cheap. The Asian Tribune published this man’s name and address. I will not repeat it here as he knows where I live and, indeed, has been an uninvited guest in my home.

Police and Crime, Criminal Police

One incident (among many) in 2009  highlighted the danger of people’s frustration at police impunity turning into mob outrage and vigilante “justice”. Two young men were killed by police at Angulana. Local people described the Angulana police post as more like a brothel-cum-tavern than a police station. Nine police officers from Angulana police station were arrested and a court heard that they had been drunk on the night of the murders. Eyewitnesses testified that armed police officers blindfolded the young men and took them away in a jeep on the night of 12 August. The two victims, handcuffed and with blue polythene bags over their heads, were bundled into the jeep by the police, one of whom was armed with a T-56. One of the accused policemen admitted to his uncle (another policeman) that he had shot and killed the two victims.

Clint Eastwood was LTTE leader Prabakharan’s hero and seems to have many fans in the Sri Lanka police, at least in his Dirty Harry persona.

Impunity International

The Sri Lankan government’s “war” on the underworld led to key underworld figures  being “taken out’”. Summary executions by shadowy death squads during the JVP uprising in 1989, evoked memories of the British government’s “shoot-to-kill policy” in Northern Ireland. The phrase “culture of impunity” is frequently heard in Sri Lanka. No one wants to live in a country where the police can kill anyone they want, including private-grudge enemies, and get away with it. There is a danger of police impunity being mirrored by vigilante justice by sections of the public.

The Angulana incident garnered a lot of publicity, and some have taken comfort from the fact that police were arrested and brought before a court. They were found guilty and sentenced to death (the death penalty is still on the books but never used). Yet hundreds of other incidents around the country may go unreported. The lawyer and human rights campaigner Basil Fernando had high hopes in 2003 of the 17th Amendment of the Constitution, which included the setting up of a National Police Commission (NPC). He described the NPC as “one of the most extraordinary mechanisms created in Sri Lanka to check human rights violations.” Unfortunately the NPC has been allowed to wither and die, with its powers delegated to officials of various ministries, including defense.

Banalisation of Violence

Eric Meyer wrote in his book Sri Lanka: Biography of an Island about a “society confronted by the  banalisation of violence. Meyer does not attribute this only to the deadening effect of thirty years of terrorism, brutal conflict and emergency legislation. He traces a deeper malaise. He sees the frustration felt by a large part of Sri Lankan society: “arrogance and indifference of the capital’s bourgeois microcosm, the corruption found in the administration, the Macchiavellism of the country’s leaders, and the frustrations of  the younger generation faced with a competitive society that only parsimoniously concedes them a place”.

These tensions are exacerbated by the contradictions imposed by Buddhism being the dominant philosophy. Buddhism’s emphasis on harmony and non-violence “does not permit the verbalisation and exteriorsation of impulses that brutally and suddenly erupt into frenzy, condoned by the silence of the authorities”.

Meyer also sees in Hinduism and Catholicism ambivalent strains that contribute to a proclivity to violence: “The diverse religious traditions provide the people with the means to confront and combat violence, yet they tend to diabolise the adversary, stripping him of his human qualities”.

Nevertheless, whatever ambivalence may have been generated by Buddhism, Hinduism and Catholicism, they have been in Sri Lanka for a long time and violence does seem to have got measurably worse in recent times. According to John Richardson, communal violence ranked low among categories of violence in the immediate post-independence years. Two events reported in 1948 and 1952, were Sinhalese-Muslim and Tamil-Muslim clashes. From 1953, incidents of communal violence began to be associated with rising Sinhalese Buddhist political movements. Initially, clashes between Sinhalese and Tamils were similar to   Northern Ireland turf wars over tribal marching.

The real descent into political instability came in three phases: the first from 1955 to 1961 over affirmative action measures for the majority Sinhalese; there was a second phase of confrontation, often leading to violence, in the 1970s, culminating in the riots of 1977; the most violent period of ethnic conflict began in 1983, when the killing of soldiers by Tamil terrorists led to horrific anti-Tamil riots involving the hacking to death and mass rape of innocent bystanders.

Broadcaster and journalist Vincent Browne wrote of the Irish situation: “Just think of the thousands of lawyers, accountants, bankers, stockbrokers and others who must have colluded in criminality over the last decade or so, in fraudulent accounting, in fraudulent trading, in fraudulent preference, in insider dealing. And such is our public culture that not one of them has been charged with a crime and, very probably, not one of them will go to jail.”
Irish people have expressed their despair at the ballot box at the crime wave and the corrupt complicity of politicians, bankers and business men.

Have thirty years of conflict desensitised Sri Lankans  to violence and criminality?

Suffering at Wars’ Ends

 

This article was published in the Sri Lankan newspaper The Nation on December 11 2011 but has disappeared from their website.

 

War is hell and the suffering goes on after war’s end.

 

Over the past few years, there have been many books describing what happened at the end of the Second World War. The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War by Ben Shephard was published in April 2010. After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation by Giles McDonogh was published in July 2007. The Struggle for Europe by William Hitchcock was published in January 2003. Walter Laqueur’s books on post-war Europe came out in 1992. John Roberts, Norman Davies, Mark Mazower and Richard Vinen, David Calleo, and last but not least, the late, great Tony Judt,  have produced  strong analytical work examining Europe’s future in the light of what its 20th-century past reveals.

 

Scholars have had 67 years to assess the six years of World War 2. Sri Lanka has only had just over two years to come to terms with nearly 30 years of internal war.

 

In 1945, the Allies had to deal with  10 to 15 million DPs (displaced persons) –  concentration camp victims, foreign workers and slave laborers and  destitute Germans. The UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was set up to deal with DPs. Shephard is sympathetic but also describes incompetence and political manipulation. Some UNRRA functionaries made mistresses of Polish DPs. Others engaged in crime.

 

One thing for DPs to do after years of deprivation was to get blind drunk. Two thousand people died from alcohol poisoning  in two months after war’s end. Many DPs reacted to freedom with sexual abandon. At Wildflecken DP Camp in Bavaria, the Virgin Mary in the “Holy Manger” Christmas show had gonorrhoea. The birth rate in DP camps rocketed.

 

Not everyone was ready to debauch. Richard Wollheim, later a distinguished philosopher, was tasked with organising  a dance party for British soldiers and female survivors in Bergen-Belsen. The party ended in mayhem, with panicking women expecting nothing but more torment from uniformed men

 

“Resettlement” was not an easy task. Shephard describes American soldiers dragging terrified Russians and Ukrainians to assembly points. They were often being sent in open cattle trucks to their deaths in Russia or Yugoslavia. British soldiers, sometimes with tears in their eyes, had to force about 70,000 people who had, in many cases already suffered terribly under the Germans, to go back to a more horrendous  fate.

 

McDonogh describes the rape and pillage that went with Red Army “liberation” of  Eastern Europe. Native populations turned on ethnic Germans with frightening ferocity. Whole  communities of Germans, up to 16 million, who had lived outside the Reich for generations, were violently uprooted. Old men, women, and children were forced to march westward, or crammed into cattle cars in which they sometimes froze to death. The most conservative estimate that  600,000 German civilians were killed at this time is still high. The savagery was comparable to what the Nazis had inflicted. Schools and public buildings became torture centres. Up to 15,000 Germans were held at Strahov soccer stadium in Prague, where  the guards amused themselves by forcing thousands to run for their lives and then machine-gunning them.

 

The Americans set up PWTEs (Prisoner of War Temporary Enclosures) which make Menik Farm seem like Club Med.  In the spring of 1945, some 40,000 prisoners died of hunger and exposure in the twelve open camps containing a million men. The Americans had burned their kit, so they had nothing to protect them from the elements.

 

The British and Americans also set up Direct Interrogation Centres to find major war criminals or  subversive activity. Their function soon changed to gathering intelligence against the Russians. Prisoners were tortured by guards with scores to settle. Methods are familiar today from their use in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan and CIA centres all over the world: savage beatings, starvation, deprivation of sleep, and removal of clothing. Men were kept standing for hours. Many never came out alive.

 

At Schwäbish Hall, near Stuttgart, Americans used methods similar to  those employed by the SS in Dachau. Prisoners endured  long periods in solitary confinement. Men were led off in hoods and  lifted off the ground to convince them they were about to hang.  When the Americans set up a commission of inquiry, they found that, of the 139 cases they examined, 137 had “had their testicles permanently destroyed by kicks received from the American War Crimes Investigation team.”

 

NGOs such as Human Rights Watch were strongly critical of GOSL’s  decision to keep civilians in IDP camps. More extreme sections of the Tamil Diaspora accused the government of having a genocidal agenda and referred to extermination camps. David Begg, leader of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, took time off from watching his members lose jobs and welfare benefits as the Irish economy went  rapidly downhill, to take  an interest in far-away Sri Lanka. He claimed that 1,000 people were dying every week in concentration camps.

 

The UN Refugee Agency reported that there were around 16 million refugees and 26 million IDPs in the world at the end of 2008. In recent years it has been increasingly tasked under the UN’s humanitarian reform process with assisting IDPs.

 

War is hell and the suffering goes on after war’s end. Some wars just do not end.

 

Today, 63 years after the foundation of the state of Israel, five million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency) services.


The Devil’s Excrement

This article appeared in the Sri Lankan newspaper The Nation but has disappeared from their website.

 

In his treatise Petroleo y Dependencia, Dr. Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, principle architect of OPEC, wrote: “Oil will bring us ruin. It’s the devil’s excrement. We are drowning in the devil’s excrement.”

 

Sri Lankan hopes of oil finds

Once again,  fantasies of Sri Lanka becoming oil-rich are bubbling to the greasy surface.

Sri Lanka imports nearly 30 million barrels of oil, which is used to generate electricity as well as for transport, every year. This used to cost around $800 million a year. In 2005 it cost $1.64 billion. In 2006 higher international prices took the bill to $2.2 billion. Add to this, $19 million per month in subsidies, the knock-on effect of transport costs on prices and the never-ending cost of war and reconstruction and one can see why the government would like to have its own oil.

India started exploring the Cauvery Basin in the Palk Strait as long ago as 1954, drilling 100 test wells. From 2000, India started production from fields close to Sri Lanka at the rate of 1,000 barrels per day. In the late 1970s, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, assisted by US and Russian companies, drilled seven test wells on and offshore in the Gulf of Mannar Basin without success. India’s success encouraged Sri Lanka to try again. The Cauvery and Gulf of Mannar basins are said to be associated with rift complexes of the Late-Jurassic-Cretaceous Age and have the potential to yield 100 million barrels.

Gamble

An oil bonanza cannot be confidently predicted without drilling. Offshore wells require more than $10 million each and the investor loses it all if the well is dry. It will be at least five years before there is any return on the investment.

 

The Director General of Petroleum Resources, Dr Neil R de Silva said in January 2007 that the picture was still ‘fuzzy’ about how viable the fields were. “One of the requirements oil companies would be expected to meet in getting a licence for oil exploration would be a benefits plan – this would ensure employment for Sri Lankans and enable Sri Lankan manufacturers and service providers to take part on a competitive basis to supply goods and services.” He added that they must be competitive, efficient and trained. How can that work? He conceded that there was a serious shortage of  professionals to work in the field and that the industry needs to train  a certified labour force. There are no petroleum professionals coming through the education system.

The number of local people employed after the construction phase of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline was negligible in Cameroon and around 350 in Chad. In Ecuador, 50,000 new jobs a month were promised; there have been only 9,000 new jobs so far, mostly unskilled and temporary.

De Silva gave the Sunday Observer an update in March 2011. He did not sound very positive to me: “with the available data it is not possible to estimate the amount of oil in the Mannar Basin confidently… At the beginning of the oil production process the Sri Lankan Government’s share would be 15% and Cairn Lanka’s 85% … As the years go by, Sri Lanka’s share will increase to … 85% while Cairn Lanka’s share will come down to …15%”.

 

 

Oil and Corruption

As long ago as 2004, Transparency International estimated that billions of dollars were lost to bribery in public purchasing and oil seemed to guarantee corruption. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Angola, Azerbaijan, Chad, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya, Nigeria, Russia, Sudan, Venezuela and Yemen were highly corrupt. Public contracting in the oil sector is plagued by vanishing revenues.

Inequality

 

Even if Sri Lanka’s oil exploration is successful, it is unlikely that many citizens  will benefit. Venezuela is to some extent an exception in that government policy has been to  use oil to improve the lot of the people as a whole. Even with Chavez’s reforms, problems persist and Caracas is one of the three most violent cities in the world.

 

Prof. Michael Ross of UCLA  produced a chart mapping  oil sales against literacy and malnutrition. Every  5% rise in oil exports was matched by a three-month fall in life-expectancy and a one-point rise in childhood malnutrition. Sri Lanka currently enjoys good WHO indicators, but child malnutrition figures are causing concern. This could get worse with the “benefits” of oil.

 

Terrorism and Environment

 

Spillages from sabotage sometimes occur. In Colombia  and Nigeria guerrillas persistently targeted pipelines. In 1995 the LTTE attacked CPC refinery and oil storage installations in Colombo causing several deaths and massive fires in the storage areas. Security fears undermine human rights. In more recent times the LTTE air force targeted oil installations.

The seismic vibrations generated by drilling can adversely affect buildings and the chemicals used can also deplete aquatic life in rivers and streams. Pollution can occur because of human error, sudden rupture of pipelines, or instrument failures.

Conclusion

So, does Sri Lanka want to be a nation where foreigners call the shots – a polluted nation, plagued by poverty and  inequality; where corruption, dynastic elites and nepotism compromise good governance and erode human rights?

 

Does Sri Lanka deserve the blessing of oil?

 

Norway – the view from Sri Lanka

Utopian Fantasies

Mankind cannot bear too much reality. People who are unhappy in the now of where they live delude themselves that there is a better life  elsewhere. Utopia might be located in an after-life or it might be in a different part of this planet, or another time in history. I recall that in the 1960s Professor Joan Robinson was telling us that Mao  had it all sorted and we  should try to emulate Communist China. C Wright Mills told us capitalism was doomed and  Castro had found a way to make Marxism human- look what a great health service Cuba has! In the 70s, I studied a fat compendium of essays arguing that worker participation in Tito’s Yugoslavia could teach Britain how to solve its industrial problems. For a while, Costa Rica, which does not have a standing army, seemed heaven on earth. Only yesterday, I read in Huffington Post that Bhutan had all the answers, with its concept of Gross National Happiness. Someone commented: “I am Bhutanese, and I think the Bhutanese government has been milking this happines­s thing for all it’s worth. .. The Bhutanese government should realize the special nature of their situation before it goes around promoting resolution­s, or telling other countries how they should  rank happiness in their list of priorities­”.

I recall reading of a survey that said Ireland was the happiest place on earth. That was before the economy went down the toilet and the industrial scale of the Catholic church’s abuses was proved beyond doubt.

Scandinavian Utopias

Scandinavia in recent times has been the promised land. My personal knowledge of Scandinavia is limited to a brief visit to Denmark (another one-time contender for happiest nation on the globe) in the early 80s. It seemed to be entirely populated by sensible teachers and social workers in home-made clothing (apart from the raving drunks on the street). My knowledge of Sweden was gained from Ingmar Bergman films – not much joy there.

When I was blogging on Open Salon, exchanges with a blogger calling himself Norwonk were always pleasant. He was a fan of the great Tommy Cooper and was grateful when I introduced him to the works of Al Read. I was surprised to learn that British comedy was popular in  Norway, with Norwegian versions of Steptoe and Son and Hancock’s Half Hour.

Norwonk was understandably shocked by recent events in Norway: “I suppose I should give you some kind of unique Norwegian insight into the terror attack but I’m sorry: I’ve got nothing. This attack makes no sense to any sane person. There’s a political motive, to be sure, but not one which sane people would identify with. I just hope this is a signal to my country to not change at all. Sure, if there are some simple and sensible measures we can take to improve our security, we should do so. But frankly, I doubt it. “

There is a good deal of delusion about the success of the Scandinavian social democracies. It is true that in Norway women occupy 40% of important jobs.  It is true that justice minister Knut Storberget and children’s minister Audun Lysbakken are able, like ordinary citizens, to take generous time-off for paternity leave.

Domestic Terrorism in USA and Norway

Norway and the USA are nations that had not had much experience of domestic terrorism. Norway did experience war on the home front when it was occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War. “Nothing like this has been seen in the history of the country,” says Kjetil Wiedswang, columnist for the newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv. “There has never been a massacre like this, even in the period of the Nazi occupation. The nation is in absolute shock.”

There has been some discussion on the internet about proportional comparisons between the incident in Norway and America’s experience with 9/11. “In proportional terms Norway has lost more people than America did on 9/11, and most of them are young, between 13 and 19” wrote Neil Tweedie  in the Daily Telegraph.  Daniel Byman writing in Foreign Policy magazine: “This may yet turn out to be Norway’s 9/11 or its Oklahoma City. But the scene of destruction in downtown Oslo does invite the question: why haven’t there been more large-scale terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland?” In 2006, Slate contributor Jordan Ellenberg questioned the logic of such comparisons. “It’s hard for Americans to comprehend what’s happening in the Middle East. That’s why commentators reach for analogies. What event in the United States would be ‘equivalent’ to the terror over there? The answer depends on what you mean by ‘equivalent’. Is it, ‘What crime in America is morally equal to the killing of eight Israelis?’ Or do you mean something more like, ‘What event would have the impact on America that the killing of eight Israelis does on Israel?’ The first question is easier. Unless you truly think Israeli lives are worth more or less than our own, the crime that’s equivalent to the murder of eight Israelis is the murder of eight Americans.”

April 19 2011, marked  the 16th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people. Timothy J. McVeigh, a decorated army veteran, was executed on June 11, 2001.  David Cole, a professor at Georgetown University’s Law Centre, says that “terrorism”  is normally defined as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.” The Oklahoma attack prompted a broadening of the definition. “If you can brand your foes as terrorists, that’s an important moral and political victory,” says Brian M. Jenkins, a terrorism expert.  “Bombs by their nature are indiscriminate weapons, and the issue is, why is it legitimate to drop a lot of bombs on a city, knowing full well that hundreds of thousands of innocents may be killed, but not legitimate to set off a bomb in a city in which scores may be killed?” The reaction to the Oklahoma bombing set in train a series of encroachments of freedom which led to the Bush regime’s use of torture so eloquently condemned in the writings of Professor Cole.

Sri Lankan View of Terror Attack in Oslo

The front page of the Sri Lankan Sunday newspaper Lakbima News carried  a picture of bloodied Norwegians with the headline: “Talk peace with terrorists? That’s in Lanka!”

Nishanta Sri Warnasinghe, a spokesman for the Sri Lankan JHU (National Heritage) party said: “Norway is known as a peaceful, peace-loving and a democratic country. But, if you look closely, Norway is a country that intervenes in third-world countries with the intention of disturbing their democracy, peace and freedom”. He said that Norway had supported terrorism in East Timor, Indonesia, Sudan  and Sri Lanka and played to the agenda of the US and the west. “We ask them to learn their lesson and not to breed terrorism. Norway is not the only country that deserves peace. Norway should not destroy the peace of the third world”.

The Sunday Island’s political columnist made the point that the ordinary Norwegians who were killed or injured had no idea what their government had been doing in Sri Lanka. “The Norwegian government must at this time of stress abide by the principles they have been promoting overseas and they should firstly refrain from banning whatever organization that has perpetrated the bombings and shootings. They should obviously start negotiating with these disgruntled elements with a view to arriving at a political solution to the problem – whatever it is.”

This might have seemed churlish. Let me explain the background.

Norway’s Role in Sri Lanka

F Rovik, a Norwegian, of the NGO NAT (Norwegians against Terrorism),  wrote in the Asian Tribune:  “Even though the acts of terror lasted only for a day, they should get some idea of what life has been for the Sri Lankans, who lived with the Norwegian-supported LTTE (Liberation tigers of Tamil Eelam) terrorism for more than 25 years. The time is long overdue to issue a complete apology to the people of Sri Lanka and other nations where Norwegian funds have been used to prolong or create conflicts. Why can’t we use some of our wealth to compensate for the damages we were responsible in foreign countries instead of using our money to bomb Libya back to the Stone Age?”

People in Sri Lanka do not necessarily regard Norway in a favourable light. When I first came to live in Sri Lanka there was a fragile truce between government and the Tamil Tigers, who were fighting for an independent homeland in the north and east. The truce was brokered by Norway. During the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA), to the outside world it would have seemed that the Norwegian facilitators were doing a difficult job in trying to bring peace to the war-torn island and getting very little thanks for it.

The leader of the Norwegian team was Erik Solheim, currently Norway’s International Development Minister. He recently called on the UN to investigate charges of war crimes in Sri Lanka, following the screening of a video on Channel 4 purporting to show Sri Lankan soldiers shooting unarmed Tamils. The Sri Lanka government claims that the video is a fake. NAT did a thorough analysis of Eric Solheim’s autobiography, noting that the book was written at Arne Fjørtoft’s house. It is noted that Solheim admits to doing jail time for stealing from the Norwegian Air force. “Arne Fjørtoft is described by Erik Solheim as  his close friend and he thanks Mr. Fjørtoft in the prologue to his book. In his book he describes Arne Fjørtoft as a genius in handling people. Fjørtoft founded Worldview Rights, a human rights organization which was funded with 100 million kroner of Norwegian tax payer’s money. There were reports of bribes, mismanagement, fraud and huge payments to Fjørtoft. Fjørtoft and  Jon Westborg (later ambassador to Sri Lanka) had a decade-long friendship with the LTTE. In 2004, Worldview  was ordered  repay around 2.5 million kroner to Norad (Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation), after an investigation into the  misuse of aid funds.

NAT published a report in 2007 listing the Norway’s faults in relation to Sri Lanka.[i]

The interrogation of Kumaran Padmanathan, aka ‘KP’, the LTTE’s arms procurer,  helped  to expose an international network that kept the Tigers in fighting trim. It was revealed that the Norwegian government helped the LTTE to establish relations with Eritrea, which allowed the group to purchase arms, ammunition and equipment from China on Eritrean end-user certificates and other documents. Over 90 per cent of the entire Tigers’ heavy equipment, including a range of artillery pieces and 14.5 mm anti-aircraft guns captured by the Sri Lankan army were of Chinese origin.

Erik Solheim had been directly involved in forming the Eritrean-LTTE relationship.[ii] The LTTE had used Eritrean and also North Korean end-user-certificates to procure arms from China which were smuggled in several consignments before the Sri Lanka Navy destroyed eight floating arsenals September 2006 and October 2007. Sri Lanka established diplomatic relations with Eritrea with a view to pursuing LTTE assets in that country. KP  revealed that an LTTE-owned business venture was entrusted with operating the International Airport in Asmara and that during the last leg of the war, it had been planned to smuggle the leader of the LTTE, Vellupillai Prabhakaran to Eritrea.

Many Sri Lankans have long been suspicious about Norwegian influence in their country. Eyebrows were raised when Norwegian People’s Aid, a Norwegian Government-funded NGO said its heavy earth-moving vehicles, trucks & tractors had been “stolen” by the LTTE. NPA had been implicated in smuggling arms to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. When the Sri Lanka Army captured the LTTE’s Stanley Base and other camps they found electricity generators, water pumps, tents, water dowsers belonging to INGOs. The massive bunkers could have been built with the stolen vehicles.

Norwegians were suspected of training LTTE sea tigers in Thailand. Norway provided sophisticated satellite & communication equipment to the LTTE during the 2002 CFA truce.

The SLMM (Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission) , and Norway in particular, was criticised for not being impartial and for appeasing the LTTE, who were guilty of most of the cease-fire violations (the SLMM itself ruled that, as of 30 June 2005, the  LTTE violated the CFA 3006 times, the Government 133 times). At one time the SLMM’s figures shown on its website were: Serious human rights violations committed by the LTTE= 99.89% Serious human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan Army = 0.11%. This information was later removed.

The Norwegians initially had the support of the then  Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga, the government, and the opposition party (UNP). After a Chinese ship was attacked off the northern Sri Lankan coast, General Trond Furuhovde, Norwegian  Head of SLMM, was recorded as  suggesting to the LTTE they  should put the blame on a “third party with stolen uniforms”. SLMM later issued a statement blaming a “third party” without naming who that third party was. On another occasion, an LTTE arms vessel escaped from the Sri Lankan navy after being warned by the SLMM by satellite phone. Even when the EU was considering proscribing the LTTE in 2006, Norway opposed it.

Phillip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, visited Sri Lanka in November 2005 and was scathing in his criticism of the way the Norwegians were handling the LTTE’s deliberately provocative  violations of the CFA.

According to NAT: “Leaders with in-depth knowledge of the LTTE wheelings and dealings accused Norway of  funding the LTTE and for Mr. Solheim for receiving LTTE help with his house purchase in Oslo. The Norwegian facilitation has had its scandals with complaints from the LTTE that the girls working in the Bangkok brothels were too doll-like. This was a major issue in Anton Balasingham Hero’s Day speech at Wembley, London. The Norwegian facilitators forgot to attend to the LTTE delegation’s liquor bill during the negotiations in Tokyo. This sent Anton Balasingham into a furious rage”. Balasingham died of kidney failure.

What were Norway’s motives in favouring and appeasing the LTTE? NAT believes there were three main reasons:

  • Securing work for the Norwegian peace industry
  • Securing votes from the Tamil Diaspora in Norway
  • Securing business for the Norwegian oil industry

Norway, according to the Tamils of the  University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) (UTHR(J)), was allowed  a disproportionately influential role in Sri Lanka,  and employed a strategy which reflected “a continuing disregard for the risks taken by members of the Tamil community struggling against the LTTE’s ruthless bid for asserting total control while demanding a political solution ensuring dignity and fair play.” (UTHR(J) claimed that Norway’s appeasement  strategy was responsible for the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadigarmar (a highly respected Tamil).

Norway began the peace process in 2002 by quite openly sidelining President Kumaratunga in favour of her long-time political adversary, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. Norway facilitated travel abroad for so-called LTTE fact-finding missions, including coaxing European representatives to meet them. Norwegian lobbying of the international community encouraged tacit support for the LTTE’s methods, and diluted or obstructed many initiatives aimed at holding it to account. The  UTHR(J), would find Norway’s benign image risible. To them Norway: “came to respect principally the LTTE’s stunning capacity for violence, which it held together by constantly attacking the humanity of its people. Its mafia-like network, which it wove to continually upgrade its destructive power under the very noses of Western governments, is allowed to go unchecked. Indeed, it was virtually rewarded with sole representation of the Tamil community. “

Norway and Ethics

Norway is not a homogeneously liberal society. The strongly anti-immigrant Progress Party is now the second largest political formation in Norway. Breivik’s voice is not a lone one pining over the fjords.

Norway has lost its international ethical niche. Norway got rich because of oil but has somehow managed to avoid the opprobrium attached to other oil explorers and exploiters. The Government Pension Fund is takes  surplus funds from Norwegian petroleum and purports to utilise them sensibly and ethically. The fund accounts for just over one  percent of all global stocks. The Fund’s Advisory Council on Ethics was established 19 November 2004 by royal decree. Companies are excluded from the fund if their conduct  is judged unethical.

Nevertheless, Norway remains one of the biggest shareholders in the controversial Indonesian logging and palm oil group Sinar Mas, with, according to its most recent published accounts, a holding of more than $16m in Sinar Mas’s  palm oil arm, Golden Agri Resources.

The Norwegian government also invests in Burma, gaining profit from the human rights abuses of the totalitarian government which employs slave labour and summary executions.[iii]  According to a report by Earth Rights: “The Norwegian people, through their government’s sovereign wealth fund, have USD $4.7 billion invested in 15 companies – hailing from eight countries – involved in the oil and gas sector in Burma.”

“Apart from direct human rights impacts, the Shwe gas and oil transport pipelines appear to be exacerbating rising ethnic tensions in Burma’s contested borderlands, specifically in the ethnically diverse territories of Shan State.” The Shwe gas consortium and several other companies in the Fund are engaged in onshore infrastructure construction in Burma, an activity that the Norwegian Ethics Council itself determined poses an unreasonably high risk of leading to human rights violations.

Although it has a large aid programme and strongly supports the UN, in reality, it has joined the club of rich nations exploiting the planet for their own benefit. There is a failure to regulate Norwegian corporations. Mark Curtis wrote in the Guardian: “Norwegian weapons sales have tripled since 2000, reaching GBP 336 million in 2007. Norwegian arms were used by the US and Britain during the invasion of Iraq, while a lack of controls have allowed high explosives to be sold to the US and re-exported to Israel. Norway has a presence in Afghanistan and Libya.

National Geographic asks: “Why Is Japan Whaling’s Bogeyman When Norway Hunts Too?” Claire Bass, marine mammals programme  manager with the WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals), says other whaling nations appear to get off lightly compared with Japan. “I think it’s part of the strategy of countries like Norway to stand behind Japan and use them to take most of the flak”. It is strange that, in the face of opposition from around the world, a rich nation like Norway  is one of a small number of countries actively engaged in  commercial whaling, despite the negligible contribution it makes  to the economy, and despite. According to documents released by WikiLeaks, President Obama put pressure on Norway during his Nobel Peace Prize visit.

Conclusion

Breivik had thought about Sri Lanka. Informed sources told The Island newspaper that Breivik could have had a link with LTTE activists in Norway. In his manifesto he said  that Europe should follow Sri Lanka’s  example of expelling the Muslims. In fact, the Muslims were driven out of the north and east by the LTTE and looked after by the government. The killer’s manifesto also referred to the LTTE massacring Buddhists at Anuradhapura temple  in 1985 and the August 3, 30 Tigers attack on  four mosques in the Kattankudi area, where 300 Muslims were prostrate in prayer. The Tigers sprayed automatic fire and hurled hand grenades at the worshipers. Most of the victims were shot in the back or side. Political sources said that while Norway was funding Sri Lankan NGOs to promote the LTTE a section of Norwegian youth drew inspiration from LTTE terrorism.

Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, a Sri Lankan  MP who has been tasked with negotiating with the Tamil National Alliance,  adopts a sympathetic  approach.  “Sadly I fear that there will be a few people in Sri Lanka who see what has occurred as some sort of retribution, for what seemed excessive indulgence to terrorism… We cannot morally fault those who tried to promote solutions based on mutual understanding. There was certainly a failure of intelligence and understanding when indulgence continued long after it was clear that Tiger terrorists were incapable of compromise. The killing of the innocent is not acceptable under any circumstances, and that is what makes terrorism so abhorrent. That is why it is vital that the world works together to eliminate terror, and does not allow it to develop, to flourish, to be revived.”

While one has every sympathy for the innocent Norwegian citizens who suffered in this outrageous act , one is also dismayed by the opportunity it afforded to stoke the national myth and dangerous self-delusion that Norway is usually a paradise on earth and that the nation behaves like a paragon of virtue in the ugly reality of the world.

Julie MacLusky

- Author and Blogger -

HoaxEye

A fake image is worth zero words

Poet's Corner

Poems, poets, poetry, writing, poetry challenges

Casual, But Smart

Pop Culture From An Old Soul

PN Review Blog

‘The most engaged, challenging and serious-minded of all the UK’s poetry magazines’ - Simon Armitage

The Manchester Review

The Manchester Review

Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Stephen Jones: a blog

Daoism—lives—language—performance. And jokes

Minal Dalal

Spreading resources for potential living.