Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2011 > Japan, Libya, ‘Cash-for-Votes’ and WikiLeaks

Mainstream, Vol. XLIX, No 14, March 26, 2011

Japan, Libya, ‘Cash-for-Votes’ and WikiLeaks


Monday 28 March 2011, by SC

The enormity of the natural disaster in Japan on account of the earthquake-cum-tsunami that struck that country on March 11 (lately experts have concluded that the quake measured 9 on the Richter scale and not 8.9 as was earlier stated) is coming out in its grotesque form with every passing day. According to latest reports, the quake-cum-tsunami killed an estimated 9400 persons while another 14,700 are reported missing and yet another 2750 have been injured; the damages caused by the calamity amount to $ 309 billion (almost Rs 13.85 lakh crores), that is, more than 30 times of whatever damages took place when the Asian tsunami hit several countries including India in December 2004 killing nearly 2.3 lakh people in the Indian Ocean area.

But more than the scale of the disaster the nuclear crisis looming large over Japan and its neighbourhood has caused deep anxiety in and around the country. For example, Japan’s announcement that on account radiation tap water has become unsafe for children (since radioactive iodine was detected in Tokyo’s water supply) has made the parents jittery; as a mother of two young children blurted out: “We have contaminated milk and vegetables, and now tap water in Tokyo, and I’m wondering what’s next.” And several Western experts have voiced skepticism over the Japanese Government and power supply company TEPCO’s reiteration of the situation in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant being under control; they feel such public statements appeared to be motivated in order to prevent any outbreak of panic and were not a realistic description of the actual situation on the ground.

Meanwhile the most noteworthy development on the international plane after the Japanese disaster has come from West Asia—not just the spread of the pro-democracy movement to more countries of the Arab world like Syria but the air attacks on Libya by Western nations (the US, UK and France) for ostensibly imposing a no-fly-zone over that country (although the principal objective is to ensure Muammar Gaddafi’s ouster, a really tall order in the prevailing circumstances). The airstrikes began on March 19 but within five days differences have cropped up among the US allies on how to manage the war campaign.

Whatever the truth of the Western claims over the Libyan Air Force having been wiped out, Gaddafi remains as defiant as ever. He has declared before his supporters: “We will not surrender. We will defeat them by any means… We will be victorious in the end. This assault is by a bunch of fascists who will end up in the dustbin of history.”

Wherein lies Gaddafi’s strength that the West could not comprehend in all its dimension? To get a comprehensive answer to this question one should carefully read the following:

Gaddafi boosted his own forces by attracting volunteers ready to fight to hold Libya together, a sentiment reinforced when the rebels adopted the flag used by King Idris al-Sanousi, Libya’s former monarch, whom Gaddafi overthrew in his 1969 coup. That flag, says (Mustafa) Fetouri (Director of the MBA programme at the Academy of Graduate Studies in Tripoli), “represents the misery my country lived through as puppets of the West”. He cites one of his relatives—no fan of Gaddafi—who travelled 400 miles (640 km) to join the government forces against the rebels; he had driven from the Bani Walid area, the heartland of the Warfalli tribe southeast of Tripoli, which has long been the bedrock of Gaddafi’s support. Fetouri, who says he himself had been tempted to join the antigovernment protests before they morphed into an armed rebellion, asked his relative why he was “fighting for Gaddafi”. He said the man told him: “It was about Libya the country, not Gaddafi.”

(Vivienne Walt in Tripoli, Time)

On the domestic front the debate in Parliament on March 23 on the alleged cash-for-votes scam during the trust vote for the Manmohan Singh Government in 2008, revived due to the recent WikiLeaks disclosures (being serially published in The Hindu), saw the members of the Opposition and those in the Treasury Benches trading charges as was only to be expected. However, the latter were able to deflect attention from the WikiLeaks exposures on the subject to the BJP’s role in the sting operation conducted by a TV channel to establish the cash-for-votes charge during the Parliament discussion on the no-confidence motion against the PM on the issue of the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008, thanks to the Tehalka periodical which brought out details of the operation. However, the digression could not diminish the serious allegation of cash-for-votes now emphasised by WikiLeaks. It was of no mean significance that WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, in an interview with a private TV channel, asserted that the PM’s comments on the WikiLeaks disclosures on monetary trans-actions before the trust vote in Parliament were “like a deliberate attempt to mislead the public”, adding: “That is actually the behaviour of guilty men.” Yet these observations did not figure in the debate as much as one had expected. Also the issue of the US having an overriding interest in ensuring the survival of Manmohan Singh as the PM and hence its embassy officials’ revelations in the cables had to be given due importance was not brought into sharp focus. Nevertheless, there were occasional sparks like BJP leader and former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha’s articulation of his firm opinion that “strategic partnership” with the US in effect meant “strategic subservience” of the US and unfortunately the Indian Government had abjectly accepted that position.

One major outcome of the debate was the assurance from the Union Home Minister that the detailed probe into the scam by the Delhi Police, as had been urged by the JPC set up to inquire into the matter, would be over soon. Hopefully it would throw more light on this entire sordid episode. Or would it?

March 24 S.C.

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