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John Passant

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January 2009



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
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Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
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I’m with the “pirates”

This is an article by Ruth Braham in the current edition of Socialist Alternative ( called ‘The truth about Somali “pirates”. ‘

On November 15, Somali pirates seized a Saudi oil tanker carrying 2 million barrels of crude oil and demanded a $25 million ransom for its release. [It has now been released after someone paid $5 million in ransom – JP.]  The international press and Western leaders united in a predictably hysterical and racist response, with outraged cries at the “lawless Somali coast” besieged by “pirates’ growing audacity” as The Age put it.

The European Union is now launching its first ever naval operation, code-named “Operation Atlanta”. From December 15 six warships and three maritime reconnaissance aircraft will patrol the region, in addition to the 10 other warships from the US, India, Malaysia and Russia that are already there. Their mission is to make sure the region’s oil is kept safe in the “civilised” hands of gun-wielding Europeans and free from the terrors of armed Africans.

But what the media and Western leaders aren’t telling us is why fishermen began arming themselves in late 2005, and why piracy has grown since then.

The Boxing Day tsunami in 2005 caused a giant wave to dislodge tonnes of radioactive waste and toxic chemicals from the sea bed off Somalia and onto beaches. Tens of thousands immediately fell ill, while at least 300 died. A UN investigation found that European companies had been dumping a lethal cocktail of uranium, heavy metals, industrial, chemical and even hospital waste by the shipload since the early 1990s. They noted “reports from villagers of a wide range of medical problems such as mouth bleeds, abdominal haemorrhages, unusual skin disorders and breathing difficulties”. The reason? “European companies found it very cheap to get rid of the waste. It costs as little as £1.70 a tonne, whereas waste disposal costs in Europe was something like £670 a tonne.”

These companies took advantage of the civil war in 1991-1992 and the following UN and US occupations of the mid-1990s to sign these lucrative deals, and despite the evidence uncovered, the UN investigation was dropped; there has been no compensation and no clean up. Even worse, the waste dumping continues.

It was in the aftermath of the tsunami that Somali fisherman began to arm themselves and act as unofficial coast guards. They were responding not only to the toxic devastation, but also to a new onslaught of foreign fishing fleets that were capitalising on the political breakdown in Somalia to plunder remaining fish stocks. Fishermen then began seizing cargo vessels, luxury cruise liners and tuna fishing boats and returning them on receiving ransom payments.

Januna Ali Jama, a pirate leader, explained the motivation behind the ransom demand of £5.4 million for a Ukrainian ship thus: “The Somali coastline has been destroyed. We believe this money is nothing compared to the devastation that we have seen on the seas”. He added that the money would go towards cleaning up the toxic waste.

Now, four years after the tsunami, US warships are sinking any Somali fishing boat that ventures too close to a cargo vessel or trawler, the EU is dedicated to protecting the 50 cargo ships that travel through the Gulf of Aden daily, and while there is a “war on piracy”, vessels dumping waste will be free to go about their business.

Despite what we hear in the news, our outrage should be aimed, not at “pirate audacity”, but the blatant Western profiteering and hypocrisy.



Comment from david bell
Time January 15, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Besides your say-so, are there any other facts to support this story? I find it hard to believe that if this was true, we wouldn’t have found about it by now through the regular media.

Comment from John Passant
Time January 15, 2009 at 9:18 pm

Thanks david

Al-Jazeera ran an article in October from memory about toxic waste being dumped off the coast of Somalia. It said:

“Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy for Somalia confirmed to Al Jazeera the world body has ‘reliable information’ that European and Asian companies are dumping toxic waste, including nuclear waste, off the Somali coastline. . .

These allegations – of the dumping of toxic waste, as well as illegal fishing – have been around for almost twenty years.

Then the 2004 tsunami hit. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said the tsunami had washed up toxic waste on the shores of Puntland. . . ‘There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead, and heavy metals like cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, and there are hospital wastes, chemical wastes, you name it.’

Google Somalia, Pirates, tsunami, fish, chemicals or variations of that and you will get quite a few hits – mostly left wing sites. But the UNEP might appeal more to you. . The mainstream media doesn’t usually report Westen crimes.

Check out:…18644.html

Ruth didn’t make this stuff up.

The Times has an online report dated 5 march 2005. Let me publish it here for you.

THE huge waves which battered northern Somalia after the tsunami in December are believed to have stirred up tonnes of nuclear and toxic waste illegally dumped in the war-racked country during the early 1990s.

Apart from killing about 300 people and destroying thousands of homes, the waves broke up rusting barrels and other containers and hazardous waste dumped along the long, remote shoreline, a spokesman for the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) said.

“Initial reports indicate that the tsunami waves broke open containers full of toxic waste and scattered the contents. We are talking about everything from medical waste to chemical waste products,” Nick Nuttal, the Unep spokesman, told The Times.

“We know this material is on the land and is now being blown around and possibly carried to villages. What we do not know is the full extent of the problem.”

Mr Nuttall said that a UN assessment mission that recently returned from the lawless African country, which has had no government since 1991, reported that several Somalis in the northern areas were ill with diseases consistent with radiation sickness. “We need more information. We need to find out what has been going on there, but there is real cause for concern,” he added. “We now need to urgently send in a multi-agency expert mission, led by Unep, for a full investigation.”

An initial UN report says that many people in the areas around the northeastern towns of Hobbio and Benadir, on the Indian Ocean coast, are suffering from far higher than normal cases of respiratory infections, mouth ulcers and bleeding, abdominal haemorrhages and unusual skin infections.

“The current situation along the Somali coastline poses a very serious environmental hazard not only in Somalia but also in the eastern Africa sub-region,” the report says. Toxic waste was first dumped in Somalia in the late 1980s, but accelerated sharply during the civil war which followed the 1991 overthrow of the late dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Local warlords, many of them former ministers in Siad Barre’s last government, received large payments from Swiss and Italian firms for access to their respective fiefdoms.

Most of the waste was simply dumped on remote beaches in containers and leaking disposable barrels.

Somali sources close to the trade say that the dumped materials included radioactive uranium, lead, cadmium, mercury and industrial, hospital, chemical and various other toxic wastes. In 1992, Unep said that European firms were involved in the trade, but because of the high level of insecurity in the country there were never any accurate assessments of the extent of the problem.

In 1997 and 1998, the Italian newspaper Famiglia Cristiana, which jointly investigated the allegations with the Italian branch of Greenpeace, published a series of articles detailing the extent of illegal dumping by a Swiss firm, Achair Partners, and an Italian waste broker, Progresso.

The European Green Party followed up the revelations by presenting to the press and the European Parliament in Strasbourg copies of contracts signed by the two companies and representatives of the then “President” — Ali Mahdi Mohamed — to accept 10 million tonnes of toxic waste in exchange for $80 million (then about £60 million).

Abdullahi Elmi Mohamed, a Somali academic studying in Sweden, told The Times that this worked out at “approximately $8 per tonne, while in Europe the cost for disposal and treatment of toxic waste material could go up to $1,000 per tonne”.

Mr Ali Mahdi, who then controlled north Mogadishu and who worked closely with the UN during its disastrous 1992-95 humanitarian mission to the country, has always refused to discuss the issue even though an Italian parliamentary report subsequently confirmed many of the allegations.

Comment from John
Time January 16, 2009 at 4:54 am


There’s another aspect to this that Ruth doesn’t cover. Western and other fishing vessels have plundered the fishing stocks in Somali waters since the 1990s. there has been no effective Government since 1991.

This has also helped drive the Somali fishermen to seek other means of living. driving the

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