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Advance: A line of British soldiers in camouflage during the Falklands WarPhoto mirror.co.uk

Advance: A line of British soldiers in camouflage during the Falklands War
Photo mirror.co.uk

The Falklands war was not oil-driven. In the first place, it was started by a military dictatoriship in Argentina to distract public attention. Second, the UK response was equally motivated to captivate the electorate and to twist public sympathy towards the Tory. It was risky? Probably yes, but it paid wonderfully well for Margareth Tatcher.

These were the driving forces in 1982 to catalyse an armed conflict. And yet everybody at the time knew that around the Falklands it was plenty of oil. How much? Well, these are always estimates, but it seems that the reserve could amount to 60 billions (almost a quarter of Saudi Arabia reserves. Not bad) but probably only 3.5 are commercially recoverable1. Since the 1994 Argentina and UK have been in negotiations to settle the matter after the conflict. But Buenos Aires walked away and from 1998 British companies have started to try their luck2.

Falkland Oil & Gas shares halved after an update on operations around the Falkland Islands. Photograph: Gary Clement/Reuters

Falkland Oil & Gas shares halved after an update on operations around the Falkland Islands. Photograph: Gary Clement/Reuters

Nowadays oil exploration is at an advanced stage in some platform and production in at least on well (Rockhoppen Sea Lion, almost 1,3 billion barrels, expects to start its first shipment by 20173).

The question is: did the Brits have a good idea about oil presence in the Falklands? The answer is a sound and round yes. The first time the British government knew about oil in the Falklands was in the remote 1969. At the time Richard Crossman, member of the cabinet, wrote in his diaries that the Foreign Office wanted to conceal the thing and prevent any further testing4. The Foreing Office feared of a possible aggravation of the territorial dispute with Argentina. Why? In public the British government was confident and bold about legitimacy of its claim. In private not so much. In 1936 John Troutbeck, head of Foreign Office American Department summarized difficulty of Britain’s position:

“Our seizure of the Falkland Islands in 1833 was so arbitrary a procedure as judged by the ideology of the present day. It is therefore not easy to explain our possession without showing ourselves up as international bandits.”5falkland capture

By 1975 almost 50 companies had applied to Britain for exploration rights. So when in 1982 Gen. Gualtieri invaded the islands, London proclaimed to intervene to safeguard the independence of the Falkland inhabitants and give them freedom of choice. Beside the fact that after the seizure in 1833 they evicted all the Argentinian citizens, so in the Falklands were living only British descendants, few years earlier, they had no problem in forcing the evacuation (against their will) of the inhabitants of the Diego Garcia, an island in Indian Ocean. Moreover all the inhabitants of the Falkland are working for a private company, which is basically the sole employer and land owner of the island: the Falklands are basically private property6.

 The war is still remember as a tremendous success for the British army and it represented a turning point for the electoral success of a Tory party that was depressing an entire generation of workers. 30 years later those military operations proved to be also a good investment. And it didn’t happen accidentally.

Cairn Lanka is commencing seismic acquisition in Mannar Basin with an investment of over US $ 100 million. President Mahinda Rajapaksa flagged off the first ever 3D Seismic activities in the Mannar Block from the Colombo Port recently. Photo dailynews.lk

Cairn Lanka is commencing seismic acquisition in Mannar Basin with an investment of over US $ 100 million. President Mahinda Rajapaksa flagged off the first ever 3D Seismic activities in the Mannar Block from the Colombo Port recently.
Photo dailynews.lk

Now, 1 billion of barrels are lying in the Mannar Basin, with commercial production expected by 20147).

Exploration rights were sold before the end of the war and when the block was still in an area under the control of the LTTE. The company, Indian Cairn, listed in the UK, has been sold to another Indian corporation, the giant Vedanta, listed in the UK as well.On its side of the Strait India has oil operations (it was even speculated that it could stolen from the Sri Lankan reserve).

Are we still asking why India helped Sri Lanka in slaughtering 70 000 Tamils? Or why the UK remained silent and recently invited president Rajapaksa for the Diamond Jubilee?

Nothing new under the sun, nothing.

Sri Lankan Tamil regugees (IDP) from the Mannar region.Photo AP

Sri Lankan Tamil regugees (IDP) from the Mannar region.
Photo AP

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IV eelam warIn this year, the IV Eelam War broke out. After the attempt of the Peace Talks from 2001 to 2005, both parties strove to resume hostilities. Many reasons have been added for the failure of the peace process. For the LTTE and especially its leader, Prabhakaran, the agreement was to far away from full independence. Of course that target was impossible to reach through negotiations, therefore only the military way was open for that purpose. On the other side the Sri Lankan government had promised even too much in the eyes of its more nationalistic constituency. Therefore in 2006 everybody was keen to start again the war.

Erik Solheim and Velupillai PrabhakaranPhoto nation.lk

Erik Solheim and Velupillai Prabhakaran
Photo nation.lk

The biggest loser was Norway. The Nordic country in fact dedicated a lot of efforts to find a deal. If you consider that from 2001 TGS-Nopec, a company specialized in seismic survey for oil exploration, was showing enthusiastic reports about the possibility to find petroleum reserves, you may guess that the government in Oslo had some undisclosed interests. If you add that the special envoy, Mr Erik Solheim, just on the brink of the Peace Talks ending was nominated Minister for International Development1, with specific interest in the oil sector, for the Norwegian initiative “Oil for development”,Norad2, (see Solheim’s activity in Ghana3, Sudan4, Angola5).

 But Norway is not the only country in the world searching for opportunities in the oil sector. China and India in the same period were involved in a tough race to secure contracts for natural resources

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.

around the world. The competition was so strong, that their bidding war was driving prices up everywhere. Thus the two Asian giants decided to form an alliance. “The agreement aimed at preventing the two nations competition for oil assets pushing up prices, symbolises their increasingly assertive role in global energy politics” (source: Financial Time).6

 One of the first country to test this alliance, was precisely Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa, soon after he received information about the possible presence of oil in the Mannar Basin, decided to get rid of Norway and offered India and China one block each 78.

We are far from saying that the Peace Talks were interrupted for the oil discovery; we are also not affirming that the IV Eelam War was oil-driven and that the India and China support of Sri Lanka was motivated purely by the natural resource deal.

We can see a series of coincidences and we argue that oil played a role in Sri Lanka, maybe only a secondary one, but not completely marginal. Norway is our first indicator; the Nordic country didn’t though it could provide more transparency on its conduct, but had clearly a vested interest in the peace process in relation to the oil reserve. China and India had additional reasons to back

Anti-lankan protest led by politician and activist Vaiko in Tamil Nadu.Photo onlanka.com

Anti-lankan protest led by politician and activist Vaiko in Tamil Nadu.
Photo onlanka.com

Colombo, but it was a clever and opportune gift from Rajapaksa to offer natural resources in exchange of their help. In particular it could have represent the convincing point for New Delhi, to intervene without hesitation. India has oil operations on its side of the Strait, and the idea of leaving oil reserve in the hands of the LTTE or China alone could have been the decisive argument to make move. The energy sector is more vital and strategic for India that any other alliance of convenience between China and Sri Lanka.

If you think that oil doesn’t play any role in conflicts around the globe, then you can ignore our thesis. On the other hand, if you assume that natural resources are too important in contemporary geopolitical scenarios, and so are always involved, maybe to different extent, you may be tempted to spend more time on this hypothesis.

 

China's President Hu Jintao and Governor of Malacca Khalil Yakub

China’s President Hu Jintao and Governor of Malacca Khalil Yakub
Photo Reuters

President Hu Jintao back in 2003 started to mention the so called “Malacca Dilemma”, the fact that 80% of China energy needs will pass thorugh the waters of Malacca, without having any strategic influence over it1.

The Chinese leadership is quite aware that whoever will control the Strait will be able to choke the supply line of the People’s Republic. It is interesting to note that the notion of the Malacca Dilemma and the String of Pearls were born almost at the same time. The String of Pearls is much more famous, but is also more misleading. It aims to address the containment policy of China against India. If you reflect, China will never be able to evict India from the Indian Ocean. Moreover China is already a global superpower, while India is struggling to become a regional one. The only field in which they are competing directly is natural resources. But the String of Pearls won’t deny that to India. The truth is that the String of Pearls is a menace perceived by the US. Washington really could be excluded from the South East. So the Americans are pushing the Indians to think they are threatened by the Chinese.

In this puzzle, the role of a piece is growing in importance: Myanmar. Back in 2007, president Bush put its eyes on the humanitarian condition of Burmese people2. It is praiseworthy, especially from an administration that launched wars to appropriate natural resources of sovereign state, practised unlawful detentions, torture, extrajudiciary killings and so on. Myanmar is itself rich in natural resources and lies in a strategic position: just before the Malacca Strait. Much of the attention Myanmar received in recent years should be probably ascribed to this aspect, rather than the restless endeavour of the US for human rights.

Sri Lanka's President Rajapaksa and India's Prime Minister Singh

Sri Lanka’s President Rajapaksa and India’s Prime Minister Singh

The Tamil diaspora in Malaysia

Finally, with regards to Sri Lanka, it should be clear that there is no such a thing as India strangled by China. Beijing is securing its supply lane; Sri Lanka is part of this architecture. Nobody in New Delhi has been forced to do anything. What happened to the Tamils and the LTTE has nothing to do with the clash of global super powers. Sri Lankan deeds are a domestic affair for India and they have been treated as such. It is easier to blame the Chinese and because they consider this kind of debate as farcical, they don’t even defend themselves. But an accurate analysis of the geopolitical interests will show that Sri Lanka is under the patronage of India, with occasional and contingent flirtations with China, dictated by convenience rather than long term alliances.

The Malacca Strait is the place where the future rearrangement of the global balance of power will take place. India should start to look at its interest, rather than following the clue thrown by the Americans (though sometimes they could overlap in any case). And if the Tamil diaspora in Malaysia has any intention to influence the international scenario, should start to appreciate its strategic role in this context, rather than chasing the infinite intrigues of New Delhi politics.

1Chen Shaofeng, “China’s Self-Extrication from the “Malacca Dilemma” and Implications” International Journal of China Studies China’s Vol. 1, No. 1, January 2010, pp. 1-24

Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)

Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)

At the end of the ’90s, the Albanian minority in Kosovo intensified its political pressure to gain independence from Serbia. Kosovo was a province with a particular meaning in the Serbian history: it was the place where the Serbian kings resisted the Ottoman invasion. The Serbian cultural identity sprung from Kosovo. In the last 20 years immigration from the nearby Albania increased the size of that ethnicity and in the mid ’90s Albanian could correctly affirm of being the majority in Kosovo. Serbia is culturally and politically on the side of Russia (for religious, linguistic, historical and political reason), therefore it is arguable that its international status was very low in those years.

 The Albanian independentist forces joined to create the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The US decided to punish the Russian presence in Europe, hitting their closest ally, Serbia. Therefore they supported the Albanian request for a separated Kosovo.

Commandos from the Kosovo Liberation Army

Commandos from the Kosovo Liberation Army

It is interesting to note that history of the Kosovo Liberation Army as a terrorist group. In 1998 Robert Gelbard, envoy of the American government, speaking of the KLA said “without any questions, a terrorist group”12. The UN resolution 1160 used similar words34. But later on the US government approached the KLA leadership to represent Kosovo in the negotiations with the Serbs. The Wall Street Journal in February 1998 mentioned the removal of the KLA from the list of terrorist organization5, when discussing its linkages with Al Qaeda. France didn’t delist the KLA until late 1998, after UK and US pressure6. KLA is still present in the list of MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base7 and is considered an inactive group by the National Consortium for the study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism from the Homeland Security8.

The KLA was considered a terrorist organization because of its linkages with organized crime and with Al Qaeda and they started a campaign of attacks against the Serbian civilians9. The common argument was that Kosovo people had the right for self-determination10, even when terrorist means were used to achieve that goal.

Black Tigers (commandos for suicide mission of the LTTE, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)

Black Tigers (commandos for suicide mission of the LTTE, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)

Now, I suppose that very few will disagree with the fact that the LTTE was a liberation army, which used terrorist means to achieve self-determination for its people.

It is wrong to state that the LTTE lost international support because it was a terrorist outfit. Quite on the contrary: it was a terrorist organization because it lost international support. This could sound pedantic, but very often it’s the core of the debate. All the atrocities committed by the LTTE do not explain its status. The LTTE failed to secure the support of main international sponsors (like US and India) and therefore it was fighting alone. And when you have guns and bank account, but no consensus, per definition you’ll be labelled “terrorist”.

It’s not about conduct, but about relationship. The LTTE killed innocent civilians, but this is not the point. LTTE was isolated and that is the reason for its terrorist status.

6 Derek SReveron and Jeffrey Stevenson Murer, eds., Flashpoints in the War on Terrorism. (New York: Palgrave, 2006)

sri lanka military presence 3The Tamil and Sinhalese community are still two divided community. Heroes of one side, are executioners for the other, terrorists here, liberators there. Every propaganda presents heroes as people who sacrificed their life for a cause, fighting. Until you’ll find a hero with guns, bullets and grenades, Sri Lanka will never converge towards a common name. In fact grenades for the cause were thrown against the other faction. The ideals of one side had to crash against the skull of people from the other side. One shared hero based on bullets and guns in Sri Lanka is a contradiction.

Unless you resort to people who were fighting with the sole courage of their words and ideas. These people can really become the light of rebirth for Sri Lanka. One of these heroes of justice and truth was Lasantha Wickrematunge.

Lasantha Wickrematunge (5 April 1958 – 8 January 2009)

Lasantha Wickrematunge (5 April 1958 – 8 January 2009)

He was a thorny journalist, from the Sinhalese side but undeterred to speak against his president and friends. He was fighting for a better society, for a Sri Lanka more inclusive and just. He attacked a ruthless and brutal regime also because he was part of the same community. Rajapaksa was a family friend and he started to criticize him as an old mate. He could say more than anybody else, because he knew the people very intimately. He reached the line and he was told so. When he crossed the line, he was eliminated. But with his death he was reborn a hero of Sri Lanka.

In fact he didn’t challenge the authority because of arrogance or imprudence. He didn’t die because of a miscalculation of risk.

On the contrary, he was perfectly aware of the offence committed against power. He confronted a violent despot with perfect conscience that he wouldn’t survive this trial. He decided to sacrifice his life, in a state of pure clarity of mind.

In one of the most touching article in the history of journalism, the day after his death, he wrote a posthumous editorial. He accused his killers and left his legacy. It is a testament for all the people with heart and mind, with the will to change society for the better. He gave his life intentionally, choosing truth and justice for a happy life with his son and daughters, his wife

Wickrematunge family

Wickrematunge family

.

When you renounce to your existence for a cause, you deserve respect; but sometimes your sacrifice takes also the life of others and when they are innocents, your gesture is compromised. But if you give your life in a pure manifestation of generosity, of love for truth and justice, then you really become a light and an inspiration.

Lasantha Wickrematunge is an example for all Sri Lanka, the ultimate hero for a united sense of justice. If you think that justice must prevail in the country, if you think that violence must be left behind, if you think that the war is over, (but not oppression), if you think that guns should leave the way to words and ideas, if you think that heroes are those who lead the way, then please remember Lasantha and his sacrifice.

When enough Sri Lankans will consider true heroes people like him, when they will take him as their hero, the country will automatically become a better place.

Procession at Wickrematunge's funeral

Procession at Wickrematunge’s funeral

Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, premier of TGTE, the Tamil government in exile

Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, premier of TGTE, the Tamil government in exile

The premier of the Tamil government in exile, Mr. Visuvanathan Rudrakuman, wrote in his greetings for new year about his aspirations for 20131. My impression is that the Tamil people has never been so far away from independence. He disagrees and I suppose he’s so desperate that needs to show some ungrounded optimism.

He states that an independent Tamil Eelam is compatible with the interests of international states, Sri Lanka included. It is not my intention to dismiss light-heartedly his thoughts, but it is important to understand if he’s talking seriously, if he believes genuinely in what he says. In this case, the Tamil leadership is lost.

At present, it is interest of nobody an independent Tamil Eelam and if you don’t get this, you are doomed to perpetuate the same mistake on and on.

Black Tigers, the LTTE battalion for suicidal operations.

Black Tigers, the LTTE battalion for suicidal operations.

The LTTE was outlaw organization; right or wrong, everybody decided to labelled so. We can discuss about rehabilitation of its memory or why it was sanctioned. But reality states that it was considered a criminal outfit. If you don’t want to spend time in understanding this, you’ll always find everybody on the other side. It is worthy remember that in 2009 China, India, USA and the rest of the European states were against the LTTE. Right or wrong, that was the situation.

Mr. Visuvanathan Rudrakuman says that it is interest of India to support independence. Now, even if you a politician, you should pay more attention to your optimism. It is very well known that India strongly opposes any secession in the region. Its own unity is at stake and New Delhi will never back any centrifugal movement. Separation of Pakistan and Bangladesh could look so remote as secession of Tamil Nadu, but it is clear that the Indian unity is fragile. For this reason, they will never let the Tamils go in Sri Lanka. Further on, they have no particular reason of friendship with the Tamils: the narrative that they are brethren stands as long as you are Tamil. The rest of the India doesn’t feel any particular closeness with them than with Sinhalese. India is a multi-ethnic country. Sinhalese are originary from Orissa. In the eyes of New Delhi Sinhalese and Tamils are equally distant from their heart. I repeat: for India there is not a single reason to support independence in Sri Lanka.

us navyThe USA are engaged in a tough struggle of power with China. Sri Lanka is dividing its attention between New Delhi and Beijing. Clearly the USA will back any Indian resolution with regards of Sri Lanka, because on the other hand they would help China. India is firmly against independence. Would the USA pursue a strategy that is reinforcing Beijing? So on which grounds it is in American interests to support the secession of Tamil Eelam?

The UK, in recent meetings (Queen’s jubilee, the Olympics), welcomed president Rajapaksa as a respectable head of state. It is recurrent the theme of “British economic interests” in Sri Lanka.

France recently approved the killing of a former LTTE leader (Parithi) on its soil.

Norway support of the LTTE cause was mainly oil driven. With the defeat of the Tigers, their edgei in the deal disappeared; they don’t have any other interest in the Tamil nationalism. So what is exactly the European interest in the Tamil Eelam secession?

Celebration in Sri Lanka for the end of the War.Courtesy JDS

Celebration in Sri Lanka for the end of the War.
Courtesy JDS

Finally, where is the convenience of the Sinhalese ? Tamil oppression dates back since independence. In 2009 they finally managed to crash the armed struggle. The TGTE forgets that. You need to rebuild a negotiating position and the Tamil one is weak now.

The war crimes and atrocities are not an excuse. Justice must be brought with or without Tamil Eelam.

If you put on the table the genocide as a compensation for the defeat, you are badly wrong. The Sinhalese don’t have any reason to accept this deal. They won.

 

1http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/two-state-solution-eminently-compatible-with-interests-of-tamil-and-sinhala-people/