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Thaipusam festival. Tamil in Malaysia

Thaipusam festival. Tamils in Malaysia

Malaysia is home of a numerous and influential Tamil community. Much of the Indian part of the population comes from Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.

The LTTE was quite active in the South East, especially Singapore and Kuala Lumpur precisely for this friendly support. Still today the Tamil community is extremely vocal in bringing justice to the war crimes committed in 2009. In Malaysia there are several members of parliament, activists, businessmen passionate for the cause. Some results of this lobbying can be seen in the Malaysian attempts to look into the case1.

 The Tamil community in Kuala Lumpur is very active in promoting events, conference and meeting to mobilize and to sensitize public opinion and government. Their effort aims to insert in the regional agenda this subject.

Malaysian Parliament

Malaysian Parliament

So far Malaysia has been quite reluctant to take a stance. But the ruling party will face elections soon and there is no better way to captivate the strategical Indian vote, than pleasing this community with a strong campaign in favour of justice and accountability.

But Sri Lanka started to court Petronas2. Colombo invited the Malaysian company to explore the Mannar Basin where oil has been found by the Indian company Cairn in 20113.

Executives from Petronas showed interest in the proposal and it seems they are ready to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for further activity4.

If it will be proved that Sri Lanka has commercially viable oil reserves, what will it be the position of Tamils in Malaysia? All their activity could simply vanish like snow in the sun. This could be a test for the capability of the Tamil community to engage the public.

Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur

If they act promptly they still have some chances to address in their favour Malaysian business policy. But if they wait until the deal is sealed, it is very unlikely that negotiations will be re-opened.

Probably the intervention of the Tamil diaspora is driven almost entirely by ideology and it can become self-referential and limited in its action to the community itself. More attention to the business and economic decisions surrounding the cause would be helpful in shaping public opinion in relevant matters.

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children of warIt’s not about the Tamils, even less the LTTE. The war is over and the plight of an independent Eelam is not part of the debate now. But we have a carnage of innocents. Even the UN, the most cautious and cowardice institution of the planet, recognized that a huge number of innocents died. Estimate from the World Bank put the number even higher, 100 000. The bishop of Mannar reached 140 000. But this is not bean-counting: these are other human beings. The final figure is less relevant than the meaning of what happened.

It seems like a game, that the higher the better for the Tamil cause, the lower, a score for Colombo. Wrong, badly wrong. In such a massacre, everybody is a loser. And responsible. This is what people don’t understand in Colombo and to some extent in Canada, Australia and the UK. It’s not about the Tamils and the Sinhalese.

sri lanka war crimes

Summary execution of Tamil men by Sri Lankan soldiers.
Photo: Channel 4/ Getty Images

We need justice for 100 000 human beings and their family. This is a collective mourning. World politics can push two groups to commit heinous mistakes. As the community of citizens of this world it is our duty to find this misconduct and to sanction it. I’m not interested in scoring for the Tamil cause, this won’t take the independence of Eelam a step closer. The Tamil community will think about this tragedy in its own terms. This is not the point.

There are credible allegation that an enormous number of civilians died. Women, children, elderly all non combatants. We need to establish the truth of what happened. And we need to know who decided it to go all the way. I want to know the role played by Mr. Rajapaksa, president of Sri Lanka and Mr. Fonseca, command in chief of Sri Lanka’s army. But also by Mr. Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE and Mr. Singh, prime minister of India. I want to know in details why Mr Karunanidhi, chief minister of Tamil Nadu, didn’t oppose the political decision in support of the offensive. And it’s mandatory to understand why the European governments, in primis the UK, didn’t raise an eyebrow during the worst days of the massacre.

situation_report_25th_april_tamilnational_bannerI want to know all these facts because otherwise I’m an accomplice. It’s not about foreign intervention in a sovereign state: it’s being human and feeling mercy and shame for what happened.

If you can kill all this human brethren and we don’t care, we are not humans anymore.

My appeal goes to the Sinhalese friends: please, help us in restoring justice.

If you think you were on the right side of justice in your fight against the LTTE, if you think that your actions were correct and fair, you want to know the truth more than everybody else. If you are compassionate about the life of every animal and plant, if you spare blood in religious sacrifices, then you have the right mindset to understand the horrible responsibility that all of us share with such a crime. We need to investigate the carnage to restore a righteous course of action. It’s not sovereign intervention. It’s human compassion.

nigeria oilIt is talking for stake in Mozambique’s Rovuma-1 gas field, is gazing 1 million barrels of crude oil in Ghana, has sent its special envoy in Sudan, has planned to boost investment in oil sector in Venezuela. Who is it? A little help: it is an Asian country with more than 1 billion people. And no, it is not China.

Surprise?

India’s growth is probably less spectacular and iconic than China’s, yet the magnitude is similar. And so it is its thirst for natural resources. China is scary, instead India has the reassuring smile of a Santa Klaus Mohamon Singh, it’s the biggest democracy, no Bollywood villain can seriously be taken as a menace.

India's Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh.Photo Reuters

India’s Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh.
Photo Reuters

India has a friendly face. The worst it can happen with India is that they will start to dance and to sing in falsetto. Yet, New Delhi needs natural resources, desperately. In particular, oil. Loads of oil. India in 2011 consumed a third of the oil of China, but China produced also a third1. China imports almost half of its need, India almost all2. And the future could be even more unbalanced for New Delhi. It is fair to say that India is looking as ravenously as China for new oil sources.

As we mentioned in the introduction India was in talks over the stake in Mozambique’s Rovuma-1 gas field3, with Ghana about equity participation and industrial collaboration4 and also for a contract of more than 1 million barrels5, has sent a special envoy in Sudan6 with the clear mandate of lobbying for India in the competition with China over the Sudanese oil; finally, it is investing in Venezuela more than $ 2 billions7.

Union Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar with the President of China National Petroleum Corporation, Chen Geng in Beijing on January 13.

Union Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar with the President of China National Petroleum Corporation, Chen Geng in Beijing on January 13.

This competition with China is not new. In 2006 they signed an agreement to stop such a bidding war that was driving up prices worldwide8. In 2012 in a very unnoticed press release, they “agreed to “work together to maintain peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region”. The “consensus” was reached during the recent visit of the Chinese defence minister General Liang Guanglie to India, the first such visit since 1976.”9 Few months earlier their race for the assets in the Western Hemisphere attracted some attention by the analyst10.

India and China will maintain internal stability only with massive growth, which in turns will be possible only through a constant, reliable access to natural resources. The human cost for this race will be enormous. In India the group Vedanta launched a para-military campaing with the support of the New Delhi (“operation Green Hunt”) to evict the Adivasi11 people from the mining site.

India is looking everywhere for new possibilities. So it was very welcomed news when they discovered fields at home in Gujarat12, the Andhra Pradesh13 and the Cauvery Basin14. Since 1981 presence of oil on the Indian side of the Basin were confirmed15.

Cairn India was awarded the contract for oil exploration in block No.2 of the Mannar Basin and has signed a petroleum resources agreement with the government of Sri Lanka.

Cairn India was awarded the contract for oil exploration in block No.2 of the Mannar Basin and has signed a petroleum resources agreement with the government of Sri Lanka.

So it was only a matter of time before they found oil on the Sri Lankan one. Indeed. In 2011 Cairn launched a press release where they announced the oil discovery16.

If you consider that the Sri Lankan government in 2006 assigned one block each to China and India for further exploration, then you’ll have a more complete framework of the Chinese and Indian interests in Sri Lanka17.

When it comes to natural resources and their appropriation in countries with conflict issues and violations of human rights, you may easily accuse the role of China, as it is the case in Sudan. Well, we suggest that India, with a much lower profile, has very similar interests and very similar doing. China didn’t export wars, as the US did. We would like to broad the debate about conflict and natural resources also to India.

Stay tuned.

Sri Lanka:Oil and LTTE presence

Map of Sri Lanka.
In Blue the areas interested by oil exploration.
In Black areas previously under the control of LTTE.

11The Adivasi are the Indian aborigenes, Estimated in 80 millions.

A displaced Tamil woman holds her baby aThe dream of an independent Tamil Eelam has been crushed on 2009, buried with 140 000 innocent Tamils. In few months 4 years will be passed from then. The Tamil diaspora is convinced that justice will prevail, because the world cannot be so deaf and blind to such a tragedy. I’m wholeheartedly advocating this cause. I’m persuaded that this was a genocide and that the international community will be harmed by ignoring this carnage. What about the UN’s mission? What about the protection of innocents? What about the principle of human rights?

At the same time I’m fully aware that time is precious. Any year that passes, brings a veil on the events. In the hearts and minds of the Tamil will stay forever, not so for the international community. Other tragedies crowd the world stage, other victims, other innocents. The more distance Rajapaksa is able to put between him and the crimes, the easier will be to walk away. So far he’s doing well.

But I don’t give up to the historians, I still believe that the Sri Lanka’s massacres are open wounds, they are still bleeding and because of that, we can still hope in justice. When historians will study those events, even if they will recognize the magnitude of the carnage, they won’t bring justice. When scholars and academicians debate about the causes and the figures from a purely theoretical perspective, justice is dead.

mullivaikalIf we are not able to highlight the case until is alive, we will condemn those victims to die twice.

For this reason, time is running out.

This is an appeal to the Tamil community, especially the diaspora: give up your intrigues, give up your pride, give up all the obstacles that are impeding a real process of accountability.

If you think you have done everything, let me explain. You want to believe in an independent Eelam, you want to worship the heroism of the Tigers, you want accountability for the Sri Lankan government, you want to help the Tamil still suffering in the Northern and Eastern provinces. You want all of this and you are surprised that the world is not listening. This is the point. The Tamil diaspora never entered in a critical process. And they woke up with the entire international community against their side. Is everybody in the world a Tamil hater? Is everybody against the idea of an independent Tamil Eelam? Is everybody so happy to support Rajapaksa? Of course not, it is just the blindness of your convictions that push everybody against you.

rajapaksa godfatherWhat is your priority? Revenge against Sri Lanka?Or Justice? Independent Eelam? Or helping the Tamils in Sri Lanka?

Decide. And act. Otherwise you’ll spend the next 50 years discussing, arguing and fighting within the community. Sri Lanka and Rajapaksa will find a fragmented front, with nobody able to present a decent request. Even too easy to sweep away the question from the table.

What do you want?

Do you want to consider the Tigers a heroic army, that righteousness fought with principles? OK, the Sri Lankan government fought the same battle, with the same principles. And it won. Do you want to consider that army criminal? Then you must accept that LTTE adopted criminal means.

A-young-Sri-Lankan-refuge-001Are you fighting for the Tamil people or for your aspirations and ambitions? When you were living a pleasant, comfortable life, your brethren in Sri Lanka were fighting, often in the last years, against their will. Are they a bargain chip, expendable on the battle field as well as in current political debate? Or they are the last inhabitant of Eelam and deserve all the attention and the efforts that you can put together? Is it better to have the flag of Eelam or better, decent conditions for the Tamil people?

Decide. But do it quickly. The international community won’t wait the Tamil age of discussion. They will forget soon. And leave you with your internecine polemics. Time is running out.

LTTE chief negotiator S. P. Tamilselvan,Sri Lanka Government chief representative Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Norway's International Development Minister Erik Solheim.Photo/AsianTribune

LTTE chief negotiator S. P. Tamilselvan,Sri Lanka Government chief representative Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Norway’s International Development Minister Erik Solheim.
Photo/AsianTribune

In 2001 Norway brokered a truce between the Sri Lankan government and the separatist army of LTTE. The mission of the Nordic country is to negotiate with the parties. In an interview with BBC, the Norwegian envoy Mr Solheim justified the efforts of his country out of pure compassion: “Security policy for the 21st century: if you want a peaceful Norway, you need a peaceful world.” A a safer place for our children.1

Praiseworthy.

It is our evil nature to investigate the good deeds and we discover a coincidence: the very same year a Norwegian company, TGS-Nopec started seismic survey in the Mannar Basin in search of oil. From 2001 to 2006, the company amassed very promising data. The press release are nothing less than enthusiastic.

LTTE's leader Prabhakaran with Norway's envoy Mr Solheim.Photo/Tamilnet

LTTE’s leader Prabhakaran with Norway’s envoy Mr Solheim.
Photo/Tamilnet

We don’t want to draw unnecessary conclusions. In scientific thinking you need to be very careful of two facts happening in the same time. Imposing causality or correlation could be in the eyes of the beholder. We see a strong effort by Norway to support the independence claim of a group of rebels. It is important to distinguish between LTTE and Tamil nationalism. The legitimacy of Tamil independence is not the subject. The debate concerns the fairness of giving such support to an organization that committed many heinous crimes. The Sri Lankan state is equally responsible of atrocities, with aggravating circumstances of being a governmental entity. The point is that Norway made a bold decision.

At the same time it is important to recall that Norway is a powerhouse in offshore drilling, with a first class expertise in the field. The Mannar Basin in Sri Lanka presents matchable conditions.

The peace process run in parallel with the oil exploration. And when the peace talks collapsed, so did the survey campaign.

Erik Solheim with workers of the oil sector

Erik Solheim with workers of the oil sector

Erik Solheim, the man sent by Norway to negotiate the peace, was first a special envoy. In 2005 he was promoted Minister for International Development, with responsibility of leading the Oil for Development program, Norad2. In this job he visited Ghana3 Sudan4, Angola5 with the clear purpose of consulting, advising, lobbying the oil sector for Norway. The Norwegian model of development is one of the most advanced, ethical and sustainable, so they are giving recommendations from a fair perspective. Yet, they are advising also on their own interest, to promote the Norwegian oil industry. This is the game of a governmental organization and it is neither good, nor bad. If your actions will cause harm, it will be negative. Positive otherwise.

Anti-Norway protest in Colombo.Photo AP

Anti-Norway protest in Colombo.
Photo AP

The only anomaly in this series is the role of Sri Lanka: the Norwegian envoy is clearly working with an agenda driven by oil. But in Sri Lanka they allegedly acted as mere neutral observers with a only humanitarian purpose. I’m sure that Norway is advocating transparency and good practices in all the countries it is visiting in its oil for development programme. Therefore I’m sure that they welcome this insight about this activity,they forget to mention. An accidental omission. I consider this quite important for two reasons. First: was the role of Norway dispassionate? Were they working to bring peace amongst Sinhalese and Tamils or their priority was to get their hands on the oil? Their strategy to support the Tamil separatism was for the good of the Tamils or just to have a privileged partnership with a newly created state, which owned everything to them?

The second is that oil is a factor in Sri Lanka. Maybe it is only a secondary one. Yet nobody is discussing it. In the case of Norway, oil probably played a big part. Then it is our duty to investigate more about the connection of oil in the Mannar Basin with the IV Eelam War. Follow us and remember: you heard here for the first time.

1http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-nkX22BQ20

Oil presence in Sri Lanka

Oil presence in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka there is oil. And it was an old and very well known fact. Petroleum exploration began in the ’60’s and after that especially the Soviets undertook several geological surveys from 1972 to 1975. After that a Canadian company acquired seismic data in 1984.

Then the war broke out, leaving everything dormant(source: the Minister of Petroleum Resource Development Secretariat, PRDS)1.

In fact the areas interested are offshore the coast controlled by the LTTE; moreover the separatist group had an extraordinary navy force, agile, well-trained, with perfect knowledge of the surroundings. The so called Sea Tigers were a crucial element of the strategic survival: the supply line was coming through the sea; thus for the LTTE was a priority to maintain a capable navy, which indeed was able to face up the Sri Lankan one.

In the ’80s technology and low prices made it uninteresting to search for oil. But in the 2000s, technology improved immensely in the field, countries like Brazil or Norway became expert in working in such conditions. The thirst for natural resources driven by China sparked a global race to exploit even secondary fields. And price went up.

Seismic survey

Seismic survey

Norway’s interest in particular focused on Sri Lanka; in fact they developed an expertise for those geological conditions. So it was nothing but natural that a Norwegian company begun to work in Sri Lanka. TGS-Nopec started started seismic survey in the Mannar Basin (source: PRDS2). In December 2001, the company delineated a “major, unexplored Jurassi-Creataceous continental rift basin. Large structures, thick turbidite sequences and numerous direct hydrocarbon indicators have encouraged TGS-Nopec and CPC to now propose to the industry a major Phase II program” (source: TGS Nopec press release)3.

From 2002 to 2005 the company continued to acquired data about the potential of the Mannar Basin(source: PRDS) 4.

Column and cartoon about the breach of contract with TGS-Nopec from Lankanewspaper

Column and cartoon about the breach of contract with TGS-Nopec from Lankanewspaper

From the enthusiasm expressed in public we can argue that the company felt of being close to a major discovery. But suddenly on the 3rd of March, 2006, President Rajapakse spread the voice he wanted to stop the collaboration with TGS Nopec5. This produced a very odd case: the government of Sri Lanka had given concession rights to the company, but it rushed so badly, that it was in breach of the contract. At the time many didn’t understand why Sri Lanka should pay to re-acquire rights on its own land6.

Opinion about the breach of contract with Nopec.From www.nation.lk

Opinions about the breach of contract with TGS-Nopec.
From http://www.nation.lk

It should have been the other way round. Instead the government of Sri Lanka agreed to pay 10.5 USD in compensation 7. In the 2001 agreement, TGS Nopec had the right to sell to third parties its data. Sri Lanka wanted to rescind the contract and accepted to pay the termination fee. It seemed like a very odd behavior, given the information available in public at the time. You can assume that Colombo was crazy in terminating a collaboration with a long-standing partner if they weren’t sure. Or you can assume that confidential information was more convincing that the public one. Later on oil was actually found. So either Sri Lanka had gambled and won. Or they knew it for sure since then. These events happened in 2006. If you have some interest in the Sri Lankan civil war, this year should ring a bell.

More to come, stay tuned.